News

Vandals trash city parks

Since July 3, vandals have caused more than $3,000 in damages to City Beach and Flintstone parks on Oak Harbor’s downtown waterfront.

Parks Director Hank Nydam said the vandals destroyed seven toilets in restrooms, shattered plexiglass shelter windows, tampered with coin boxes, broke drains in sinks, gouged holes in picnic tables, snapped sprinkler heads, tipped over portable toilets and broke into the windmill.

Nydam added that campers in City Beach RV park saw hoodlums recently burning a wheelchair in a fireplace.

“We always deal with vandalism,” he said, “but since July 3, it’s been exceptionally bad.”

As a result, the city has started locking buildings, including restrooms, at City Beach at night for the first time. Nydam admits this might be a hardship for campers, but he said there’s little choice.

Capt. Rick Wallace with Oak Harbor Police said police have increased patrols in the area.

Moreover, Nydam and Wallace ask residents to keep a lookout and report anything suspicious at the parks. Simply call 911.

The broken toilets are a mystery that hasn’t been solved. Wallace said officers aren’t sure how the vandal or vandals are breaking the ceramic toilets. At first, they thought it was explosive fireworks, but they’ve given up on that theory.

“We don’t know if they are jumping on the toilets and breaking them off the fixtures,” Wallace said, “or if they are using some large, heavy instrument.”

The park department replaced some of the broken toilets with port-a-potties, but then vandals pushed over the honey buckets and stuck a hose in one to fill it with water. Nydam said he realized portable toilets aren’t handicapped accessible, so he ended up “shuffling” toilets around from other restrooms.

Nydam added that he’s looking into the possibility of replacing the ceramic toilet bowls with stainless steel ones, which are “practically indestructible.” But his proposal, to install 10 stainless steel pots, would cost more than $10,000. Ceramic toilets normally cost about $200 each. The city council will have to make a decision on the choice of toilets.

Nydam said he’s somewhat worried that a vandal could be severely injured by breaking ceramic toilets. The ceramic shards can be razor sharp.

Nydam said he’s just disappointed that some people would want to senselessly break stuff.

“You want to do nice things for the public,” he said, “but you can’t do it because you’re afraid it will get busted in a couple weeks.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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