Vandals have once again struck the popular Discovery Playground in Spokane Valley, this time making off with a 5-foot-tall yellow fiberglass inchworm. Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation staff noticed the yellow inchworm was missing and its green companion was damaged on Wednesday.
The inchworms were installed this spring in the Secret Garden area of the playground, which was designed to be accommodating to children of all physical ability levels. The playground has been well used since it opened in May 2010, but it also has been plagued with problems caused by vandals who seem to be as attracted to the brightly colored, larger-than-life plants and animals as the children are.
Last year someone tore a giant fiberglass rainbow trout out of the ground near the entrance to the playground, but it was apparently too heavy to haul away. In November someone stole several huge fiberglass eggshells, but they were eventually recovered. Neither the trout nor the eggs have been reinstalled yet.
The city has been consulting with various experts to find a way to install the features in such a way that they won’t be ripped out of the ground again, said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone. “We’re going to reinstall them for sure,” he said. “They’ll go in before the season is over.”
The purloined inchworm, however, wasn’t ripped from the ground. “Rather than digging it out, they just broke it off its mount,” Stone said.
The city has been spreading the word about the missing inchworm and is asking people to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 if they know where it is. “I’m hoping someone will see this,” Stone said. “It’s 5-feet (long), it’s bright yellow. It’s not the sort of thing you’d see in somebody’s yard.”
But Stone is getting discouraged by the vandalism that seems to be dogging the playground. “Just about every larger-than-life element we have in there has been vandalized or stolen,” he said. “We’re contemplating hiring security at this point. People seem to want to hang around this playground after hours.”
Stone was already working to install security cameras equipped with motion sensors, but the cameras won’t cover every inch of the playground. “The cameras are limited to their field of vision,” he said. “We’re not going to be putting up a hundred of those. I’m just not sure how valuable they’re going to be.”
The bottom line is that if these colorful features that children and families enjoy so much continue to go missing or get vandalized, there may soon be a time when the city won’t be able to afford replacements, Stone said. So far Stone estimates the city has spent about $15,000 on repairs to various features in the park.
The park is well lit and in a visible area, but it has one flaw. “It’s in a commercial area,” Stone said. “We don’t have residents living around the facility.”
The playground also had a graffiti incident and the Parks Department has had some vehicles parked in a highly visible area damaged when people attempted to siphon gas from their tanks. A park ambassador recently spotted a 20-something male trying to break a piece of a bronze statue just outside Discovery Park in the middle of the day. “There seems to be a real boldness to what’s been happening recently,” Stone said. “I don’t know what to make of it.”
If people driving by the playground see suspicious activity or people in the park after dark they are encouraged to call the police.
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