Additional police patrols are now keeping a close eye on city parks in St. Helens following a series of vandalism events.
"We’ve had instances of graffiti, broken doors, gutters torn off buildings, fencing ripped down in construction areas, rocks thrown into the restroom toilets, soap dispensers ripped off the wall and soap poured everywhere, litter, and people driving vehicles onto the grass and causing damage at various St. Helens parks," St. Helens Communications Officer Crystal King told The Chronicle. "Fortunately, we have been able to repair most of the damage using supplies that we already have on hand thanks to the work of our Parks and Public Works crews."
Since most repairs were made utilizing existing resources, King said specific cost estimates for the repairs was not available.
"It was $250 to replace the gutter damage at McCormick Park," she said.
Other repairs, such as replacing damaged doors were pending.
King said St. Helens Police have increased patrols at the city parks after the vandalism was discussed during a June city council meeting.
"Officers will continue to patrol the parks more closely, and we hope that the additional police presence will help prevent vandalism before it occurs," King said.
Parks staff will be assessing areas that are most frequently vandalized and evaluating ideas to make the parks more visible to the surrounding neighborhoods and vehicle traffic, according to King.
"We hope that the increased visibility will be a further deterrent to vandalism," she said. "At the end of the day, these parks belong to the community, and we hope that the community takes pride and ownership in helping us to keep them in working order and pleasant for everyone to use. The community can assist us in helping to prevent and stop vandalism by speaking up if they see something suspicious happening."
King said anyone spotting park vandalism can also call the city's non-emergency dispatch at 503-397-1521 to report something they see happening or if they notice that vandalism has occurred. People can also contact the St. Helens Parks and Recreation Department at 503-366-8208 if they have questions or concerns regarding the parks in St. Helens.
While there are vandalism challenges at the city parks, there have been improvements as well, according to the parks annual report presented to the St. Helens City Council in June.
- The Dalton Lake Nature Preserve has many new amenities including a kiosk and bike rack all of which have been donated.
- Work parties have been held at Dalton Lake, Nob Hill, and the Botanical Garden to remove invasive species, tidy trails, and provide general clean-up work.
- The all-inclusive playground installation is almost complete.
- Many projects have been proposed, and some set to be added to the Parks Master Plan.
- There has been discussion on expanding the Botanical Garden. It has been suggested that a small parcel of land owned by the city be traded for the small parcel of land adjacent to the Botanical Garden, thereby increasing the size of the park.
- A name change is also currently being discussed for the Botanical Garden since it is more of a wilderness area than formal garden.
- Nob Hill Nature Park as well as McCormick Park have had new benches added.
- The Urban Trail continues to be discussed as to how to move forward with it.
- The watershed council got a grant for restoration along the trail, which will benefit Nob Hill Nature Park.
- An anonymous donor gave $1,000 to be used toward removing invasive species and planting native species in the parks. It will most likely be used at Dalton Lake and Godfrey Park.