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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley parks director looking into security options for city’s parks

Vandalism at Browns Park in Spokane Valley over the summer included damage to one of the park’s splash pad palm trees, like seen here in a rendering of the recently finished playground.  (Courtesy)
Vandalism at Browns Park in Spokane Valley over the summer included damage to one of the park’s splash pad palm trees, like seen here in a rendering of the recently finished playground. (Courtesy)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The newly upgraded Browns Park at South Pines Road and East 32nd Avenue in Spokane Valley suffered some highly visible vandalism this summer, but Parks and Recreation Director John Bottelli said the damage was not out of the ordinary.

“It’s pretty typical,” Bottelli said. “It’s a bummer to see it.”

The most visible damage has been to a palm tree in the park’s splash pad. Earlier this year someone disassembled it and left the pieces in the middle of the park. It was reassembled, put back in place and bolted down, Bottelli said. But that wasn’t enough to keep the palm tree unscathed.

“Recently some kiddos, presumably, knocked over the palm tree,” he said. “It’s actually broken. We’re looking for replacement parts. It’ll be back in the spring.”

Graffiti is always an issue in parks, and Bottelli said some amusing graffiti turned up this summer at Browns Park. It read, in very large letters, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

There has been some damage to the bathrooms, Bottelli said but not an unusual amount when compared to other park bathrooms. The bathroom doors have automatic locks that lock every night and unlock in the morning. There have been some complaints about people sleeping in the bathrooms and it is possible for people to stay there if they happen to be inside when the doors lock, Bottelli said. The doors can be opened from the inside once they lock, but sometimes people want to stay, he said.

“Some people find shelter wherever they can,” he said.

The automatic locks, while helpful, aren’t a perfect solution, Bottelli said. “They don’t solve all your problems,” he said.

Not all of Spokane Valley’s parks have automatic locks on the bathrooms, Bottelli said, and he’s been exploring options to reduce vandalism there. “Most of the older parks don’t have automatic locks,” he said.

As an example, the toilet and sink in the bathroom at the Appleway Trail trailhead at University Road and Appleway were broken. Bottelli said they will be replaced by stainless steel fixtures.

Spokane Valley is a contract city, which means the city does not have a roster of employees dedicated to maintaining the parks. Most park maintenance and other tasks are contracted out to Senske. Asking those workers to lock and unlock the bathrooms in every city park every day is expensive, Bottelli said. “We don’t have staff who work after hours like that,” he said.

He considered asking volunteers to do it, but Bottelli said he doesn’t want to put a volunteer in the position of having to confront someone at a park after hours. He’s also explored hiring a security company to send security guards to lock and unlock the bathrooms each day while also quickly patrolling each park, but it would cost an estimated $80,000 a year.

Surveillance cameras are another expensive option, but the city has come up with a cheaper solution.

“We have had Senske put out a few game cameras here and there,” he said.

The game cameras are triggered by motion and can take pictures of activity that takes place in the parks after hours.

The city will continue evaluating its options to improve security at all parks until a solution is found, Bottelli said.

“We’re definitely looking at it,” he said.

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Correspondent Nina Culver can be reached at nculver47@gmail.com.

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