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Closed until further notice

Council restricts access to Woodsfield park due to continued vandalism

WOODSFIELD — After multiple bouts of vandalism at the Woodsfield City Park, the Village Council voted to close the facility indefinitely.

On Monday, council voted in favor of closing the park to the general public due to continued acts of vandalism being committed even after surveillance cameras were installed throughout the area, Village Administrator Kevin Brooks said. Residents who obtain a permit can still use the facility.

The closure began the following day on Tuesday.

“We’re doing what we think we need to do in order to restore some respect for our property by the individuals who are using the park,” he said.

Brooks said council members felt they had no option other than to close the park until further notice. He said over the past seven months there have been around a dozen acts of vandalism, leading to more than $20,000 in repair costs. He said the restrooms have been set on fire, the restroom and maintenance doors have been damaged numerous times from being kicked in, the exterior light bulbs have been stolen multiple times, rocks have been thrown at the pavilion causing exterior damage, and all the playground equipment has had profanities carved into it.

“Those are just the highlights. There are other instances that have occurred down there, and we just can’t allow it to continue so we’re trying to be good stewards by protecting the park and not allowing damage there anymore,” he said. “At what point does it stop and how are we going to stop it if we continue to allow it to happen?”

A series of cameras was installed throughout the village-owned park a few months ago; however, the 24-hour surveillance has done little to deter the vandals, Brooks said. Although the cameras have allowed some of the perpetrators to be identified, he said some of the individuals don’t seem to be bothered by being caught on video committing the acts.

Brooks said the offenders typically range in age from 12-15 years old. He said he anticipates more destruction in the next couple of months with classes set to end for the school year in the next six weeks.

Last year, the village spent $90,000 on park improvements including the installation of the pavilion, repaving the basketball courts and installing barbecue grills. Brooks said officials had planned to install a dozen new picnic tables, but that project has been put on hold until the vandalism ceases.

“Since we cut the ribbon on the new basketball court, it’s been one vandalism after another,” he added.

Residents will still be able to access the park by obtaining a free permit. Brooks said if an individual wants to use the park, they can come to the municipal building and have a permit issued at no cost, allowing the village to know who is on the property. He said officials will soon begin installing signage around the park to inform residents about the park closure.

Brooks said the park will remain closed until there is a period of 30 consecutive days without any acts of vandalism. He said once there is an extended period of time without destruction to the park property, the village will lift the restrictions.

Some people are upset about the current restrictions; however, Brooks said council is trying to operate in the community’s best interest. The time of the vandalism instances has varied from early morning to late at night. He said it would be “fiscally irresponsible” for the village to station a police officer outside the park 24 hours a day.

He said the closure is not something officials wanted to do but was necessary to stop the destruction.

“We’re not trying to shut everyone out from using the park, but we’re trying to control who’s down there due to all the vandalism,” he said.

For more information or to obtain a permit, call 740-472-0525.

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