When Ruth Robinson took a walk through Canatara Park the morning of April 8 she was sickened by what she saw.
Overnight, one or more vehicles had gone tearing through the park, causing extensive damage to the waterlogged ground.
“These delinquents did not get enough attention damaging the berm, so they took a joyride on the open field,” she said, “tires throwing mud and leaving huge ruts.”
The Point Edward resident said she was disgusted that someone could show such disregard for a place that’s so treasured.
And she wasn’t alone.
The vandalism really hit a nerve among local residents, said Sean Robbins, president of Sarnia-Lambton Crime Stoppers. It’s Facebook page lit up and the organization offered a $500 cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver or drivers responsible.
Police believe an SUV or off-road vehicle was responsible for the damage, which spread across the open field area and hills around the park.
A few days later, extensive turf damage in several areas and inflicted the same weekend by a vehicle was reported at Mike Weir Park in Bright’s Grove, prompting an additional $500 reward from Crime Stoppers.
The incidents have reopened a local debate on the installation of surveillance cameras in public parks, something the city and police first proposed last year.
Parks and recreation director Rob Harwood said repairing Canatara would cost about $5,000, money that could have gone toward other improvements such as playground equipment.
On Friday, a spokesman with Unifor told The Journal the Sarnia locals have agreed to cover the cost of the repairs.
But filling ruts and replacing the torn-up sod will have to wait until the ground dries, Harwood said.
City officials are hoping that can occur by the 3rd annual Community Parks Clean-Up Day on Saturday, April 22.
On that day, citizens and community groups join city staff from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to show their support by cleaning up public spaces. To register, visit www.sarnia.ca, www.sarniagives.com or call 519-332-0330, ext. 3201.
Robinson said police patrols can’t be everywhere so it’s up to residents to be park ambassadors and report vandalism.
She’s concerned that if the vandalism continues Sarnia might close parks outright at night.
“Many people enjoy Canatara in the later hours without damaging property and do not want to lose that opportunity,” she said.