By Kristen Dragotto
Missourian Staff Writer
The Washington Park Board last week made the decision to secure the gates at the Washington Fairgrounds and pursue other security measures in an effort to prevent further vandalism.
Over the past year there has been an increase in vandalism, according to Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Dunker.
Earlier this month, someone did doughnuts with a car, tearing up the fairgrounds.
“The doughnuts cause ruts in the ground,” Dunker explained. “They thenhave to be filled with dirt and grass has to be replanted.”
This type of vandalism is being seen in the area surrounding the amphitheater, gazebo and near the lake dam. The winter months seem to be the prime time for the destruction, Dunker said.
The gates surrounding Hillermann Park and the fairgrounds will now be secured by the Washington Police Department at night and will be reopened by the parks department in the morning.
The city also is in the process of purchasing security cameras. Those cameras will be placed all over the city, including the fairgrounds.
Dunker told The Missourian he believes there were at least 10 incidents of park vandalism due to vehicles in 2019 and two already this year.
“This not only causes damage, but is also a hazard,” he said. “Last year there was an accident at the fairgrounds.”
Dunker was referring to an incident Saturday, Aug. 17, when a 17-year-old permit driver rolled his pickup truck at the fairgrounds west of the Main Stage.
While the accident resulted in no injuries for the driver of that vehicle or its passenger, Dunker hoped it would be a “deterrent” in the future for the same behavior.
“We have been able to catch some of the people responsible and hold them accountable, but oftentimes the damage is learned about after the fact,” he said.
Dunker noted the parks department has no budget for vandalism.
“We have budgets for dirt and grass,” he explained. “When ruts caused from doughnuts need to be fixed we have to pull from those funds to fix them.”
As a result, this has the potential to cause shortfalls in other projects, he added.
There also is a concern about manpower in regard to fixing the damages.
“Workers have to be sent to these scenes to fix the areas damaged,” Dunker explained. “Those workers, as a result, are having to be taken away from other projects.”
The parks director expressed his disappointment in the behavior of those people participating in the vandalism, but hopes the new security measures will prevent the issue in the future.