Almost three weeks ago, a Vashon Park District attendant checking Agren Memorial Park discovered that the gate blocking access to the field had been broken. What happened beyond that point was not at all good — it had apparently been vandalized.
The field had wide, deep tire tracks embedded in it, suggesting a vehicle had torn through the area. The incident, which occurred around Dec. 27 or 28, couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time, as fresh turf was growing there, thanks to a major grant-funded renovation project for the field.
Park district officials immediately expressed their dismay, including the district’s executive director, Elaine Ott-Rocheford, who said, “it is sickening to have such a beautiful project… so senselessly destroyed.”
We agree. The island’s recreational areas are a gem to our special and unique community and should be treated as such. To take a public place and ruin it for everyone else’s leisure and athletic pursuits is wrong and whoever is responsible should be held accountable for their actions. As of The Beachcomber’s press time, the King County Sheriff’s Office was still investigating the incident.
The destruction of Agren field serves as a reminder that we can all do things to maintain our public parks and recreational spaces. Sure, it’s obvious: don’t vandalize. But let’s keep in mind, too, that our treatment of these spaces before, during and after use can go a long way in preserving them.
It’s worth pointing out that the Vashon Park District seems to think “commitment to safety and excellence” is a pretty good principle, as it named that as one of the district’s many values online.
“We will strive to exceed expectations in maintaining and preserving all our parks and facilities to the highest quality standards of safety, function, and beauty,” the statement reads.
Contacted by The Beachcomber for comment, Ott-Rocheford wrote in an email that “generally, VPD finds that island park users are deeply respectful of the parks they enjoy and love.”
Ott-Rocheford said she gets inquiries from islanders about how they can volunteer with the park district. She noted that there are stewardship groups on the island who assist in maintaining parks and its facilities.
“It is important to treat parks with respect, so they and the next park user can safely enjoy the experience they are seeking,” Ott-Rocheford wrote.
In addition to vandalism, people dumping their personal trash in the receptacles remains one of the biggest problems the park district faces, she said. The district recently reported that disposal costs went up 111% from 2014 to 2018.
“Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples in every bunch,” she wrote.
The problems our island park district director outlines should concern us all. It’s important not to just wait for the next district renovation or clean up projects to keep these spaces healthy and vibrant for all.