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Story Last modified at 9:25 a.m. on Thursday, June 23, 2011

Be on the lookout
Parks manager wants public's help stopping vandals

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:News

Vandals spray painted the bathroom at Mirror Lake, one of more than a half-dozen instances of vandalism in area parks over the past two weeks.
PHOTO COURTESY EAGLE RIVER PARKS AND RECREATION

Vandalism is rampant this summer in Chugiak-Eagle River parks, where at least eight incidents have taken place over the past couple weeks.

"It's very discouraging as both a taxpayer and as an employee," Eagle River Parks manager Val Barkley said last week.

Typically striking late at night, the vandals have been doing just about anything and everything in their power to make area parks look worse. Barkley said they've stolen flowers from Town Square, punched holes in a bear-proof trash can at Mount Baldy, burned a portable toilet at Oberg soccer field and sprayed grafitti at Mirror Lake. In the most recent incident, someone decided it would be a good idea to tear up the grass at Schroeder Park with a pick-up truck.

"Our guys do a very good job of keeping the parks clean and well maintained, and it's frustrating when you go first thing in the morning and see something spray painted or burned," Barkley said.

Anchorage Police spokeswoman Anita Shell said vandalism does appear to be up in Chugiak-Eagle River parks, and said that patrol officers responded to at least five calls in just one week. The spree has gotten so bad that the department put out a special Crime Stoppers bulletin.

"What we need is people who have seen anything suspicious to call police," Shell said.

It's not just parks that are getting hit. Earlier this month, unknown Eagle River miscreants also vandalized mailboxes on Hiland Road and messed with sprinklers at Ravenwood Elementary.

Barkley said she has also decided to enlist the public's help in the form of a park watch program. She's not setting up anything formal, but would like people to start being extra vigilant when they're out and about this summer.

"It's late at night, but there could be somebody that sees something," she said.

Barkley said she's heard from a couple folks who have volunteered to stay up late to keep an eye on things – and wouldn't mind hearing from a couple more.

"If someone wants to call me and say, 'I'm out here,' that's great," she said.

Barkley and Shell both stressed that individuals should not try to intervene with suspected vandals caught in the act.

"The best intervention is to call police and let us take care of it," Shell said.

Barkley said no particular park has been targeted. Instead, the vandals seem to be hitting just about anywhere they can find something to destroy or deface.

"They've hit practically every big park that we utilize," Barkley said.

Barkley said she wants anyone in the community who sees anything out of the ordinary – especially at night – in area parks to give her or the police a call immediately.

"I'm sure if the community is watching, someone will see something," she said.

Barkley can be reached at 343-1500 or barkleyva@muni.org.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com



This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, June 23, 2011.