The Agren Memorial Park field, a Vashon Park District property used by island softball teams and some soccer teams, was seriously vandalized late last weekend after a vehicle tore across the new sod that was supposed to be ready for play later this year.
An attendant checked that the barricade gate blocking access to the field was locked at 9 p.m. on Dec. 27, but by the following morning, the gate was discovered broken and thick tire tracks cut across most of the fresh turf still taking root that was planted as part of a major grant-funded restoration project completed earlier this year.
Now, commissioners and park district Executive Director Elaine Ott-Rocheford are asking why anyone would have reason to commit such a destructive act against a community asset.
“Speaking from my heart, it is sickening to have such a beautiful project… so senselessly destroyed. It just sickens me. It just sickens me that someone would do this,” said Ott-Rocheford in a phone interview.
The King County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident. Spokesman Ryan Abbott said that whoever is responsible for the vandalism could be charged with first-degree malicious mischief, a felony, for the destruction of public property. A lost wallet discovered at the scene was included in the initial police report, but Abbott said there are no suspects at this time.
Ott-Rocheford said she is consulting with engineer Dave Anderson of Seattle’s D.A. Hogan & Associates, who designed the new field, for a sense of how much work repairing the damage will require. She and maintenance director Jason Acosta estimate the cost of the vandalism may be between $50,000 to $100,000.
“It was intentionally destroyed. It was an intentional act and it just makes me very sad,” said Ott-Rocheford. “People don’t have a sense of the amount of time or the resources that go into a public works project.”
She added that she has also notified the district’s insurance provider and the county’s Youth Sports Facilities Grant manager — the renovation of the 30-acre park, first donated to King County by the Agren family in 1956 in memory of Lieutenant Harold E. Agren, was funded by a $250,000 King County Youth and Amateur Sports Grant awarded to the district in January of last year. Brandy Fox of Construction Planning & Management has also been made aware of the damage, said Ott-Rocheford.
Fox, construction manager for last year’s Vashon High School athletic complex renovation, oversaw the work in August that included correcting a 5-foot slope from the southeast corner to the northwest corner of the field to improve drainage and extend the season of use, installing irrigation heads, re-centering the game infield and regrading the parking lot.
Weeds that posed a slip hazard for athletes when the ground was wet were removed and sinkholes in the field were filled in. The original top layer of the soil was shaved away and then mechanically compacted to create a uniform playing surface long-awaited by sports teams, much of which is now marred by the tire tracks.
King County gave Agren to the park district in 1995, and since that time its shortfalls had not been significantly addressed until this year. Board chair Bob McMahon said the logistics involved for bringing such a renovation as the one completed at Agren to fruition would dissuade many from following through, but he credited Ott-Rocheford for pursuing the grant regardless of the challenge, as well as those who helped realize the project.
“To have it all wrecked like that in one night is just such a shame,” he said, adding that he was unsure when the park could be reopened but that he hopes quick action may be taken to repair the extensive damage.
McMahon said that he was relatively optimistic about the next steps and ultimately putting the field back into shape — a new chain has been installed to replace the damaged gate in the interim in an attempt to stop anyone else from driving onto the beleaguered field. But he said he could not understand what would compel anyone to commit such vandalism in the first place.
“I just can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that,” he said.
This version of the article updates comments made by Bob McMahon.