Claire Berry used to look forward to bringing her two children to Edgemont Park in Edgewood twice a week.
But the park isn’t what it was. Vandals have broken two of the six large slides and half the swings in recent months, in addition to causing other damage.
“It’s sad because it’s a wonderful park,” said Berry, a resident of unincorporated King County who lives within a five-minute drive of the park. “It never was like this before.”
Edgewood officials agree that vandalism at the park has increased during the past six months. Besides breaking play equipment, vandals have sprayed graffiti on picnic tables, spread charcoal from the barbecue pits around the park, set a fire in a wastebasket in the men’s restroom and intentionally clogged toilets and a drinking water fountain, said Bonnie Valens, Edge-wood’s administrative services manager.
The East Pierce city of more than 9,800 residents, which this month cut $367,000 from its 2010 budget, can’t afford to replace the broken slides and swings now, Valens said. Repairing both slides would cost about $7,500, she said.
“We haven’t done any kind of repairs due to our budget limitations,” Valens said. “At this point, I don’t know how the rest of the summer is going to go.”
The city’s scaled-back police force doesn’t have the staff to monitor the park constantly, Police Chief Ed Knutson said. Budget cuts last year reduced patrol deputies to one per shift, while the most recent cuts will reduce patrols even further. Starting July 11, deputies will patrol the city fewer than 24 hours per day.
City officials are asking Edge-wood residents to report suspicious activity.
“We do need citizens’ help out there to police this park,” Knutson said.
Police have arrested and charged one juvenile accused of breaking a slide in March, Knutson said. In that case, an Edgewood deputy who happened to be driving past saw the suspect leave the scene, Knutson said.
The suspect, whom The News Tribune is not naming because he is a juvenile, has been charged with felony vandalism and is awaiting trial.
Edgemont’s two broken slides are now boarded up with plywood, but that didn’t stop Berry’s 4-yearold son, Simon, from getting his foot caught in a broken hole in the plastic, she said.
Mom now has to keep a closer eye on Simon and his 6-year sister, Amelia, to make sure they don’t get hurt, she said.
“It’s a safety issue,” Berry said. “They still see it as a plaything.”
Edgemont Park is the only park in Edgewood with play equipment and recreational ballfields. The city’s other two parks, Nelson Nature Park and Nelson Farm Park, have features such as a trail, a picnic area and a set of community planting beds.
Edgemont is open from dawn to dusk. Knutson said the city is considering locking the gates every evening, but he thinks that may do little to keep vandals out.
“A locked fence just means kids will jump over it,” he said.
Melissa Santos: 253-552-7058, firstname.lastname@example.org