Town to crack down on park vandalism


    Due to a recent rash of vandalism at Pagosa Springs’ Town and Yamaguchi Parks, Tom Carosello, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, announced at last week’s town council meeting a plan to install high quality video surveillance cameras in an effort to catch the perpetrators in the act.

    “Unfortunately vandalism hasn’t slowed down as I thought it would from the summer time,” Carosello reported. “I think it is finally time, unfortunately, to have to do that, but if we do, hopefully we can get some of these … citizens — I use the term loosely — and hopefully it will help curb the vandalism.”

    Readers of The SUN will recall an article published Aug. 23 by Randi Pierce describing the theft of the handicap-accessible swing from the playground at Yamaguchi Park. Apparently, the problem is chronic and on-going.

    “The vandalism is significant,” town manager David Mitchem added, “so we are going to provide instructions to the police department to do some more patrolling there, and unless council objects, we’re planning to take $11,000 from the Riverwalk improvement line item to buy cameras, improve the doors at the Town Park restrooms and try to harden those two sites against vandalism as best we can.”

    No one on town council objected to Mitchem taking money out of the Riverwalk budget and handling the situation administratively instead of drafting a resolution and placing it before the council for a vote.

    “Dennis Ford and Jim Miller (town staff) have been really helpful in putting together estimates for security cameras at both locations,” Carosello continued. “There will be cameras up before the end of the year in Yamaguchi and Town Park. We’ll be able to monitor those remotely and be able to store up to a month’s worth of information from them.”

    When Council member Kathie Lattin asked what the vandalism entailed, Mitchem explained, “In Town Park they’re ripping the shakes off the sides of the building and ripping the spindles out of the railing to go up onto the stage. They’re plugging the toilets and flooding the restrooms, and just generally ripping it up as best they can.”

    During a later interview parks superintendent Miller clarified, “The creativity of the local … artist,” he had to pause and search for a way of describing the vandals that could be printed in a family newspaper, “is exceptional. We have a very high quality of criminal in Pagosa Springs.

    “They are experimenting with hydraulic dynamics,” he added. “They take the toilet paper, full rolls sometimes, and put them in the toilets, plug the floor drain with paper towels out of the paper towel dispenser, and then repeatedly flush the toilets, seeing how much water they can get in there. That’s what I encountered Nov. 17 in Yamaguchi Park, which was the third or fourth time I have encountered that.”

    Miller went on to describe other occasions where all of the paper products have been pulled out of the dispensers and scattered over the restroom floor. Picnic tables have been carved or written on (“things you wouldn’t want your grandma or little sister to read”), but, worst of all, “a well established, though not large, crabapple tree” has been snapped off at its base. “How they accomplished that, and whether or not it was the same ‘they’ or not, I don’t know.”

    “Now, we have a brand new set of restrooms down at Yamaguchi Park,” Mitchem continued at the town council meeting, “and they’re hanging on the doors of the stalls inside to try to rip them off the hinges. It just takes a tremendous amount of work on the part of town staff to try to do the repairs and clean-up.”

    When Mayor Ross Aragon asked about increased police presence, Mitchem responded, “We are going to increase police presence at both locations to try to catch them but, in the meantime, and for the long run, we are going to put cameras up and handle it that way, as well.”

    When council member Don Volger asked how many incidents have occurred, Mitchem admitted, “We’re getting hit every weekend right before town staff goes down there to lock them up, it appears, and frankly, after school during the week as well. They are being diligent in their efforts, so we are going to be diligent, too. We’re going to catch them.”

    Miller, in the later interview, explained, “This is something Mayor Ross Aragon and I share: Small town values, that nebulous aesthetic those of us who enjoy living here strive to obtain, includes things like no graffiti, no vandalism, no major street crime, and a sense of feeling safe when you go walking in the parks at two in the morning, which I see people doing regularly. Even though the parks are ostensibly closed by town ordinance at dusk, people should feel safe walking the Riverwalk at two in the morning.”