Portsmouth frustrated by vandalism at Sandy Point, Glen Park

Lifeguard chairs knocked over, stone wall damaged

By Jim McGaw
Posted 6/7/19

PORTSMOUTH — Rosemary Davidson slowly scanned the long stone wall running north to south at Glen Park, where youngsters play soccer, baseball and softball, run-cross country, take part in …

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Portsmouth frustrated by vandalism at Sandy Point, Glen Park

Lifeguard chairs knocked over, stone wall damaged

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Rosemary Davidson slowly scanned the long stone wall running north to south at Glen Park, where youngsters play soccer, baseball and softball, run-cross country, take part in 4-H fairs, ride horses, picnic with their families and simply escape to get away from it all.

On her face was a look of disgust. Large pieces of the wall had been dislodged and unceremoniously dumped on the grass on each side. In one spot, there was a gaping hole.

“This is awful; it’s just pure destruction. I love having kids in this park, but I do not go for vandalism,” said Ms. Davidson, one of the few remaining members of the Glen Park Working Committee, which oversees the operation and maintenance of the town-owned property off Glen Road. 

“And it’s not even summer,” she said.

Vandalism as of late has been a persistent problem at both Glen Park and Sandy Point Beach, where the town’s Recreation Department will be hosting upcoming summer camps. Parks and Recreation Director Wendy Bulk has requested extra police patrols in hopes of rooting out the offenders, and also hopes to get cameras installed.

Sandy Point Beach

For the second year in a row, lifeguard chairs at Sandy Point have been tipped over and damaged.

“The opening day of Memorial Weekend, one of the chairs was flipped,” said head lifeguard Avery Boruch. “Last weekend, on Sunday, we came in and two of the chairs were tipped and also damaged when they were tipped. The way they fell, with the cement buckets hanging, they snapped in some places.”

The Department of Public Works repaired the chairs. “But it’s costly,” said Ms. Bulk. “They probably have some wear and tear from them tipping.”

Last year was even worse, she said. Chairs were tossed into the water and taken out by the currents. A kayaker spotted one chair at McCorrie Point, while another took a longer voyage.

“We had to retrieve one in Little Compton, or around that area,” Ms. Bulk said.

She imagines the beach vandalism is happening at night when it’s dark — 10 p.m. or later. “Police are aware of it and they are coming around and checking. They can’t catch them when it’s really late at night. Whoever’s doing this is just waiting,” she said.

Police Chief Thomas Lee said his department has beefed up patrols in the area and hopes parents will help police narrow down possible suspects if they see youngsters sharing relevant information on social media.

“It’s just been ongoing with the chairs being knocked over. It’s not just one or two people. It takes a bunch of kids to knock those other,” he said.

Ms. Bulk said one potential solution that’s been floated — gating the beach parking lot at night — may not be effective. “We don’t know where these people are coming from. They could be walking to the beach,” she said.

Chief Lee said closing off the lot at night is on the table, although he’d have to receive permission from the Town Council first. He also agreed with Ms. Bulk that it might not work. “In the past, (the vandals weren’t) even people who were driving down there,” he said.

Ms. Boruch said it would be “terrible” if police had to close the lot at night, since that’s when some people come down to walk their dogs. (Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach during normal beach hours, which end at 4 p.m.)

‘It’s ready to go’

At Glen Park, the pulled-out stones are severely compromising the wall’s structural integrity in certain parts.

“It’s ready to go,” said Ms. Davidson. 

Repairing a stone wall is no simple task, as it takes a skilled laborer — and money. Ms. Davidson said fixing a wall costs around $100 a foot, while Ms. Bulk put that number closer to $200. Dan Smith, a local firefighter who’s paid to work on the wall, finished repairing earlier damage just recently, Ms. Davidson said. 

“He’s so disheartened,” she said.

The vandalism doesn’t stop with the stone wall. At least two illegal fire pits were visible at the park Monday, one of them built close to the kitchen building. There were also several rocks sitting on top of that structure, and its walls had scrape marks due to stick-wielding youngsters, Ms. Davidson said.

“Those are little soccer kids whose parents are on their phones, watching the game,” she said. “I’ve seen them doing it. They were poking and banging the building with sticks the other day. I told them, ‘Stop!’ It costs a lot of money to paint these buildings. They were bigger kids; they were like 10.”

The park’s bathrooms have also been a target of vandals over the years. “They’ve put duct tape in the toilets. In three days, it all backed up. On Saturday or Memorial Day weekend, they had to come down here with a plumber with a snake, and septic people,” Ms. Davidson said. 

In another incident, a toilet paper holder was ripped off a wall. “And vomit all over. The poor cleaning girl; she doesn’t need that,” she said.

Ms. Bulk said she wanted to bring more attention to the vandalism problem in hopes that residents can keep a closer eye out for damage. She’d also like to get some video surveillance equipment installed.

“We have to get cameras, but what do you do after dark?” she said.

Chief Lee said cameras are being considered, but there’s no guarantee they’d be able to capture any criminal wrongdoing in such a large area. “It would be difficult … to get something in range. There’s no easy solution,” he said.

“The thing is, it’s just disheartening,” said Ms. Davidson, whose late husband, Dr. Robert Davidson, was also a fierce protector of the park. Glen Park’s softball field, in fact, bears his name.

“This is such a nice place,” she said sadly.

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