Vandalism at public park

Acts of a few may affect the many

Sand in the sink of the Miners Park restroom in Negaunee is pictured. Officials at both the City of Negaunee and Marquette Township are asking for help to prevent vandalism at their public facilities where problems have occurred repeatedly over the spring and early summer. (Photo courtesy of the city of Negaunee)

MARQUETTE — What some might consider a lighthearted youthful prank has a high cost to residents of two Upper Peninsula communities.

In recent months, restroom facilities in Marquette Township’s Lions Field as well as Miners Park in Negaunee have been vandalized by putting foreign material into restroom toilets, as well as other issues.

Marquette Township Manager Randy Girard called the rash of incidents “senseless.”

“It’s been going on for several years, once with someone doing doughnuts and tearing up the turf right after it was put in at Lions Field, then someone punched a hole in the wall. But one of the most recent ones were rocks and pine cones flushed down a toilet, to block the line. Three staff members worked 12 hours,” Girard said. “We had to rent equipment in order to clear the line. All of that could amount to $2,000 or more, and township taxpayers ultimately pay the bill if we can’t find the perpetrators.”

While the cost has not been as high for the damage at Miners Park, City Manager Nate Heffron said there were still consequences after an unknown individual or group of individuals put sand from the volleyball court “literally everywhere” in one of the restrooms.

Sand, toilet paper and a paper towel in a toilet at Miners Park in Negaunee are pictured. Several acts of vandalism have occurred at the park as well as Lions Field in Marquette Township in the last several weeks. Officials are asking for the public’s help prevent further problems. (Photo courtesy of the city of Negaunee)

“This is the third time this has happened in the last 10 days,” Heffron said. “They put sand in all the facilities and flushed it down the toilet with all the paper towel and toilet paper. There was mud in every orifice.”

He chalks the incidents up possibly to “kids making mud pies.”

“It’s my feeling that these kids are unsupervised and, the parents need to be made aware of their actions,” Heffron said. “City staff had to take time to clean and restock the whole facility each time and determine if there were any short-term or long-term damage to the facilities. Sand was not meant to be flushed into the sewer, and could eventually result in a sewer collapse.”

Both municipalities are struggling with the issue. Marquette Township has several cameras placed at Lions Field but, so far has only been able to catch one set of vandals.

The Marquette Township Board recently reaffirmed Girard’s authority to pursue and reclaim damages from those caught vandalizing township facilities.

“We have expanded our cameras, we have cameras everywhere. We are going to take an aggressive approach to it. Your parents have liability up to $2,000 it is unfortunate that we have to go there, but ownership residents absolutely should not bear the cost for these random malicious acts,” Girard said. “That is why, when someone gets caught doing this, they are going to pay for it and they are going to get prosecuted, but that itself is going to take up township resources.”

Heffron said the city of Negaunee is also working on putting cameras in the restrooms, but he wants the approach to be “holistic and not reactionary.”

“The city is making an investment in wireless cameras and a wireless router,” Heffron said. “It has been mentioned in some of the Facebook posts that we should put out a game camera, but we are not hunting for deer here. There’s a lot of clever ideas, but not practical. Rest assured the city is going to take some action here soon. We are not going to be reactionary, we have to do things in a smart way.”

Both community leaders are asking the public to be vigilant and report any incidences of vandalism they witness to municipal facilities.

Negaunee residents are encouraged to call the Negaunee Police Department at 906-475-4154. Vandalism in Marquette Township should be reported to the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office at 906-225-8435.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.