Vandals damage Page parks and playgrounds, reward offered

Bob Hembree/Lake Powell Chronicle Vandals have targeted new playground equipment at John C. Page Park. The City of Page invested over $500,000 to replace old equipment.

Vandalism at Page’s parks and playgrounds goes largely unnoticed by residents, but the problem is there, it’s increasing, and taxpayers are paying for it.

Recently, the City of Page invested over $550,000 in children’s playground equipment at John C. Page Park, referred to by residents as City Park. Vandals have defaced the new equipment repeatedly since the city celebrated its opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony July 14, 2023.

Lynn Cormier, director of community engagement for the City of Page, estimates that the problem began accelerating about two years ago.

“I didn't really see the implications, except lately, in just talking to some people, they've been saying, ‘I had no idea we had a graffiti issue,’” she said. “I think the issue is that my staff goes in and cleans it up so quickly that nobody even knows that we have this major problem with graffiti. And we really do.”

The latest attack occurred Sunday night, Jan. 28. Vandals defaced playground equipment for 2-5-year-olds at City Park. The city added another police report to the growing list, making it the 13th report filed since the July 14 ribbon cutting. While most incidents were at City Park, delinquents also tagged Children's Park, Golliard Park and Vermilion Park.

“It can take my staff, two guys, anywhere from four to eight hours just to clean up the mess, because it’s that plastic that’s textured and the metal piping,” said Cormier. “They hit everything, and it drives me crazy, and I'm not exactly sure what to do other than hopefully educate the public that if you see something, please say something, because we definitely know it’s happening in the evening hours and into the night.”

Cormier said most of the damage was from spray paint, though metallic markers and other types of paint were used. The city also cleaned paint spills on picnic tables and concrete areas. Cleaning up after vandals distracts from all the demands of maintaining a city.

“When you can lose all these man hours just trying to clean something up that should never have happened in the first place, it’s kind of sad,” said Cormier.

On Aug. 8, 2021, a group of young adults and teens were caught on camera spray painting “Manny” on walls, vehicles and sidewalks in Page. The video footage led to their arrests. The defacing appeared to result from a TikTok challenge.

At the time, Cormier told the Chronicle, “Roughly, last week’s event cost the city between $400-$500. However, what we can’t necessarily trace is the cost of the domino effect of these employees being pulled from other jobs or duties. Our Parks and Trails Department has a schedule of mowing, trimming, watering and cleanup of other facilities that are put on hold in order to deal with unexpected problems such as graffiti.  Eventually, this may cause the department to incur overtime in order to regain their growth schedule.”

Cormier now monitors the TikTok challenges and doesn’t see a connection to the recent playground damage.

“I don't feel like it’s directly linked to TikTok, because between Debbie Winlock at the library and myself, we usually stay abreast on what’s happening with those challenges, because the year that they did, every one of my bathrooms in the city parks got messed up and the library one,” said Cormier.

Police said there are live feed surveillance cameras in the parks, but most are mounted high on poles to prevent tampering. Consequently, the detail isn’t as good at night.

“A lot of this is happening at night, which is causing them to be evasive around the cameras,” said Cormier. “Unfortunately, the kids will be in dark clothes and black hoodies, and it’s very difficult to tell at nighttime. And [Police Chief] Tim Lange has been awesome. He’s working with educating his patrol units and sergeants. It can happen so fast. And what looks like a couple of kids in the nighttime playing on the swing sets, it’s like, well, should these high school kids really be on a 2-to-5-year-old play set. I’m hoping [it’s] a red flag for our community.”

Page City Council unanimously approved playground equipment purchase for City Park on Oct. 12, 2022. The new GameTime playground equipment replaced older equipment and addressed safety concerns. The city got a 100% matching grant for the equipment and installation for both playgrounds in exchange for ordering during the company’s offseason. The corporate grants for larger projects helps the 95-year-old manufacturer keep employees working year-round. The city essentially got the equipment and installation for half price, plus demolition and landscaping costs.

At the Oct. 12 council meeting, Counselor David Auge said that in addition to a place for parents to bring their children year-round, the playground is an added benefit for City Park events. For example, children have something to do while parents explore booths at arts and craft shows.

“When we have events there, any type of event and stuff like that, it’s going to be huge,” said Auge.

Naturally, the city wants to represent itself in the best light to visitors. Defaced retaining walls, playground equipment, trash on the city’s trails, and damage caused by offroad vehicles doesn’t make a good impression.

Page Parks and Recreation staff are constantly repairing or cleaning up after vandals and careless off-road antics. Last week, the Chronicle reported over $5,000 in gravel was scattered and lost at Red Mesa Rim Trail because of vehicles racing around the parking lot.

The Page Police Department announced a reward of up to $500 for information leading to the arrest of anyone damaging city property.

Parents aren’t off the hook if their children are involved. According to a statement from police, “Additionally, restitution will be requested, meaning individuals or their parents (if juveniles are involved) may be ordered to pay thousands of dollars to the City for damage they caused. Anyone with information can call the Page Police Department at 928-645-4350, or Silent Witness at 928-774-6111. If requested, your identity will remain anonymous.”

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