What to do About Vandalism in Kinsmen Park

Literally years of work by community volunteers is being torn apart due to the large amount of vandalism in Kinsmen Park South.    Most of the trees that were planted by volunteers over the past three years have been damaged and six of the trees have been completely destroyed.

New preschool playground equipment, which was installed only last year, has been damaged and covered in graffiti. The picnic tables which we installed three years ago have been burned.

The saddest thing about all of this is that most of the damage has been done since at least June of this year and left unreported and unrepaired for at least four months, through spray-pad season, soccer season and football season.  I started a Flickr photoset with 28 pictures documenting the damage as of October, 2008 and they can be found here.

What Went Wrong

Kinsmen Park South is a very active park, with houses facing the park on one side and houses backing on to the park on two sides.  It’s a very big park too, with lots of room for skiers in the winter and dog-walkers in the summer and fall.  Nearby schools and daycares use the plaground extensively.  Yet the damage still went unreported and unrepaired.

It’s assumed that most of the damage was caused by late night parties in the park during the summer.  Branches from newly planted trees were broken, and in some cases the entire trees broken, for firewood.

The graffiti?  Who knows why or when, but we couldn’t find a single piece of equipment that wasn’t tagged.

Why it matters

The main goal we had when we took on the park project was to provide shade for young families using the playground and equipment for the smallest children.  Both those goals are in doubt if we can’t keep the equipment maintained and the trees growing.

A secondary goal was to re-ignite a sense of community ownership of the park.  We figured that if the LCA invested money and effort in the park, the neighbours who lived around the park and the people who used it would take on a sense of stewardship.  Clearly we failed in this goal.  We didn’t even come close.  It’s causing us to reflect on how we choose our projects and why we do community projects.  We got this one wrong and need to tackle new problems differently.

What Can You Do?

Is the City responsible for maintaining the park?  Yes.  But are we responsible for reporting problems both when they are happening and after they happen?  Also, yes.  So what can you do?

First off, report the damage!  If you see damage or graffiti in the park call the city Community Service department at 777-7000 and report it.  Call the police if there are people in the park after 11PM.

Second, well, I don’t know.  I’d like to suggest walking the dog with some pruning shears on Sunday morning and trimming some things up.  But I think we’re all waiting for someone else to do it.

Thirdly, use the park!  Often!  One of the best things we can do to prevent any kind of crime, be it in parks or our streets is to be outside and active.  An active, busy community is a safer community.

Fourthly, contact the LCA if you have ideas on how to fix this.  As I said, we took the ‘build it and community will follow’ approach and it didn’t work.

What should we do differently? Leave your thoughts in the comments after this post.  Or come to our next meeting Monday November 10, 7PM at Lakeview School and tell us.  We’ll listen.

Author: Mark

I'm a community volunteer, writer, committed family guy and professional artisan bread baker, not necessarily in that order.

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