Parks director talks about recent vandalism

By Benjamin Chase of the Plainsman
Posted 6/15/24

Schroder discusses vandalism, updates on Memorial Ballpark

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Parks director talks about recent vandalism

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HURON – A June 4 social media post by the Huron Parks & Recreation Department announcing the closure of the skate park at Prospect Park due to vandalism struck a chord within the community, leading to significant feedback, not to mention nearly 100 shares on Facebook.

It led Parks & Rec Director Chad Schroder to share a letter on Facebook regarding the decision to close the skate park at the time.

Schroder sat down with the Plainsman to discuss recent vandalism at city parks as well as other goings-on with the Parks & Rec Department.

One of the first things that Schroder acknowledged was that he was pleased to see the community response to the post, with a community member stepping up to pay for the paint to do the repainting of the skate park, allowing it to be reopened notably sooner.

“I don’t like to put (vandalism) on social media, but we’ve had such a run of vandalism this summer that I felt something needed to be done,” Schroder explained.

Schroder explained that vandals have caused destruction at Campbell Park bathrooms, set a fire in a bathroom at Prospect Park before moving to spray painting at the skate park multiple times before Schroder made the social media post and closed the park.

He did note those who were attempting to equate the spray paint work, or tagging, with skate culture and asked that the city leave the painting on the ramps.

“We need to come up with something for a graffiti area. That is a discussion and we will have something,” Schroder reflected. “We’re looking at that. I’m going to rely on my Parks board and we’ll figure something out there.”

“The graffiti that has been there, though, has not been constructive,” Schroder continued, explaining that the photos shared on social media were intentionally structured to not show obscene painting that was the majority of the painting done each time the park has been vandalized.

“However, we’re not sure that having a wall to paint isn’t going to lead to more obscene things, and we’ll be there every day painting over it or have to take it down. I also worry that if they come with a can of paint and use half of it on our wall, where are they going to go with that other half of the can?”

Schroder said there has been previous vandalism, but never to this degree. He reported that someone already scraped into the new paint a message to stop painting the ramps, but that skateboard and bicycle wheels have gone over the etching enough that it will be left, as it’s faintly visible to the naked eye.

Schroder observed that since reopening the park, the addition of a light over the park could potentially deter vandals, however he also noted that his best-lit bathroom in the parks system is also the most vandalized bathroom of Huron parks currently.

“I think that the best solution is cameras. I really do,” Schroder stated. “We have to be really careful about putting those around a restroom and then we have to look at cost.”

He has received a quote to put a camera just over the skateboard park, along with the wiring and internet connection that would be required with the location in the center of a park area, and that quote was roughly $8,600 for installation of the pole, light, camera, wiring, and initial internet connection, plus $200 per year for internet fees.

Schroder said that there simply isn’t that level of “slush” in his annual budget, so he can potentially prepare such an item for a funding request in his 2025 budget. But then there would also be the delay, once it was approved for the 2025 budget, of getting installation and wiring done when the ground was suitable, which could mean the soonest install date could be nine months away potentially.

The other issue to run into is that multiple entities within the city are looking at camera systems, whether to prevent vandalism, for employee/community protection, or simply for site security, and cameras in parks may not take priority over other projects that may have more citywide impact.

With that level of quote, Schroder has to take into consideration when a camera may simply be cost-inefficient.

“Whenever we have to repaint the skate park, for instance, it’s $250 to $300 between paint and labor,” Schroder explained. “It takes a lot of repainting to pay for $8,600.”

In fact, Schroder has had other communities contact him that did try camera systems. They reported that extra lighting was much more effective in deterring vandals than cameras were, especially for the cost required. Other methods of deterrence have also been mentioned.

“It was mentioned to simply lock the park up at night,” Schroder relayed. “If you consider that, I have to find a staff member to go around at a certain time of night to go around and lock up all 17 parks in the city. Then I have to send someone back through before 7 a.m. again to open them up.”

While not all of the ideas presented in comments to the department’s social media posts were viable, or even constructive, Schroder did appreciate those who honestly took time to consider options.

“It’s really been a good brainstorming session,” Schroder chuckled. “On social media, folks will definitely let you know their thoughts, but for me, I have to consider all of those and whether we can make any of them work.”

He mentioned that for the most part, the community takes care of the parks and is appreciative of the parks in the community. He’s also excited about new parks additions in the city, including one major recreation item that is going to be accomplished through construction.

“I’m really excited when they get done with all of the Dakota Avenue construction in 2027 to get to work using the shared-use path,” Schroder smiled. “We have wanted to connect our bike and walking trails in the southwest part of town to the northeast part of town for ages, and the bike paths in that construction will do it for us. We’re going to have Ravine Lake and the south part of town connected, and we’re looking to add in even more.”

Memorial Ballpark update
Schroder also discussed the field issues at Memorial Ballpark. After cutting down and removing the old light poles at Memorial on January 23, significant tire tracks were left across the middle of the infield. He explained that working with the contractor to get that repaired has been a long process, but the field should be ready for action, beginning next week.

The tracks through the infield and the dirt work that needed to be done near the gate in left field have been completed, but the vegetation is not coming in as quickly as was hoped. Schroder assured that the playing field is safe and leveled off, even if the grass coloration may not indicate so.

“It has filled in quite a bit over the last few days,” Schroder said. “We’re finally getting the temperatures that we need for the vegetation to germinate well and fill in. We knew it might not be perfect this year, but it would be playable.”

He expects reseeding the foul areas in the fall to get better coverage in those areas. Schroder also referred back to the beginning of Klock Field as an example.

“We built Klock Field up from scratch, so we have a bit of an example,” he recalled. “The grass there that first year or so wasn’t perfect, but you could play on it, and now it comes back nicely every year.”

Schroder expressed that outside of the color difference on the infield, the grass has filled in very well now, stating that watering, fertilizing and the heat has helped.

The first game to be played on Memorial will be June 20 as it’s the first time this season where two games are scheduled at the same time for Legion teams.

Schroder says everything should be ready for Thursday’s games.