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Skate park opening marred by vandals


Grafitti and vandalism have forced community leaders to ponder whats next

May 19 was a proud day for the Estacada community, especially for leaders such as Mayor Becky Arnold who had pushed for years to bring a skate park to town.

Just one month after the grand opening of Wade Creek Park, however, community leaders may be beginning to wonder if they made a mistake.

Ever since the park opened, it has been the target of graffiti throughout the skate area and of restroom vandalism on multiple occasions.

As a result of the crimes, which have gone unpunished thus far, City Council members are beginning to wonder what they can do to stop it.

"A couple council members have suggested putting up a sign saying that if this keeps happening, we'll shut the park down," City Manager Bill Elliott said. "In other cities, they have put a fence around it and closed the park for a couple weeks. When they have opened the parks back up, it doesn't seem to happen anymore.

"My experience with other parks has been that if the users of the park don't take control and resolve this, it will never get resolved."

Elliott said the graffiti has become a weekly occurrence lately, and it has cost the city nearly $800 in labor and materials to clean up. While the park does have surveillance cameras, the footage has been inconclusive thus far in helping to identify the perpetrators.

"When it's dark and he or she comes along the fence line with a hoodie on, you can't make anything out," Elliott said. "Whoever the little artist is, though, is quite proud of his or her stuff."

In addition to graffiti, the park restrooms have been trashed on a couple of occasions. The most recent vandalism involved a male and a female who came from the area of the library, but once again the suspects were unable to be identified.

"During the last spree they busted the camera off and stole it," Elliott said. "It's a constant kind of thing in the restroom, it's just a disgusting trashing."

While Elliott is concerned about the problems from the position of city manager, Becky Arnold has become far more emotionally invested in the success of the park.

"I honestly thought we would have a little bit of this, but I thought the kids would want this park so bad that they would fight for it," she said. "I feel that personally I've been fighting for this for 10 years, and I've stood up for countless kids at countless meetings to make this a reality. I expect them to stand up now and take care of it."

While the idea of closing the park has been proposed, at least temporarily, Arnold is far from ready to give up on things.

"I want that to be the extreme, the last resort," she said. "(Bill Elliott) has reported it has been successful in other communities, but I guess I think Estacada is better than that."

Aside from graffiti and vandalism, Arnold has heard complaints about marijuana use in the park, which has numerous spots for kids to hide. In talking to the contractor, Arnold has identified a number of trees that kids hide behind and is in the process of working toward eliminating them.

Aside from all of the negatives that have come to the park, Arnold is quick to point out all of the positive feedback the city has received.

"There have been a lot of comments about how well the kids work with each other," she said. "All in all, our kids are doing a good job. There are just a couple in there that need to go somewhere else because we don't want them here.

"I don't want destructive behavior in my community in any way, shape or form, so they can go paint their walls at home and if they're not from this area, then stay out of here."

Anyone with tips about who has been vandalizing the park is urged to contact Elliott or someone else at City Hall.