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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Greenacres Park in Spokane Valley defaced with racist, white supremacist messages

Greenacres Park in Spokane Valley was vandalized with racist and white supremacist messaging over the weekend.

Valley resident Becky Graham said she took her dog for a walk through the park Saturday morning when she noticed the restroom structure near the park’s east entrance and directly in front of the playground had been defaced with large, graphic messages written in white, black and maroon spray paint.

“My home had been attacked” was her initial reaction, Graham said.

Two of the messages on the restroom’s door, stalls and walls had a racial slur associated with a Black person followed by “kill yourself” and “WHITE POWER.” The latter was accompanied by four swastikas below, according to pictures Graham provided.

Other vulgarities were written in large text throughout the space.

“I walk my dog there regularly and love that park,” Graham said. “It’s a wonderful little park. I was just really surprised to come across that.”

Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mark Gregory said deputies with the Spokane Valley Police Department are investigating the incident, which is believed to have occurred between Friday night and Saturday morning. Some of the vandalism and messages had been cleaned by the time officers arrived, he said.

The vandalism caused an estimated $3,000 in damages, and is initially being considered a second-degree felony malicious mischief case, he said.

Gregory said the police department, which functions as a precinct of the Sheriff’s Office, is still in the initial stages of investigating and could not reference the vandalism as a hate crime at this time without being able to prove the intent of the vandal.

Hate crime charges have not yet been ruled out, he said.

“We are still investigating,” Gregory said. “We don’t have all the facts.”

Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor Tim Hattenburg denounced the “racist” messaging at the City Council meeting Tuesday evening and thanked the city’s parks department and Senske Services, which contracts with the city for park maintenance, for their quick response.

He said the bulk of the spray paint was removed within a couple hours of its discovery.

Hattenburg learned of the vandalism from Graham, who called to report it Saturday morning around 9:30 a.m. Graham also contacted Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Director John Bottelli.

“It was extremely offensive, racially and otherwise,” Hattenburg said during the meeting. “That does not reflect our community that I grew up in, I think we can all agree on that. Sadly, there’s a few people who do stuff like that.”

Hattenburg shared in the meeting that the park is popular for the many families who live in the area, and he observed about 30 kids playing in the park by the time he arrived at the scene around 11:30 a.m.

“I’m really disappointed about what happened, obviously,” Hattenburg said in an interview Wednesday.

The park doesn’t have surveillance cameras and has not been flagged as a problem area in the past to necessitate cameras . Hattenburg said that may need to change following the incident.

“It’s really frustrating that we have to use taxpayer money to do that,” Hattenburg said. “But you have to do what you have to do, I guess.”

Graham travels nearly 5 miles from her home in the Valley to the park almost every day to walk her 18-year-old dog Fiona around the property.

“I go on walks because it’s got the sidewalk and I have trouble with my balance, so that works great for me,” Graham said. “It’s a nice little loop, and there’s a lot of people that are regular walkers.”

The city opened Greenacres Park in 2012 as the first new park since the city incorporated in 2003, and Graham said it has been an incredible place to meet her fellow community members.

She said many of the parkgoers she meets are immigrant families, and she goes out of her way to connect with them, like the young couple from Ukraine she’s gotten to know after running into them repeatedly on her visits.

“It’s a really good way to welcome people who just really don’t know much about us,” Graham said. “They’re arriving in the country, and here’s this little park. For some of them, it’s their first exposure to anybody other than an official.”

Gregory said anyone with information on the vandalism should contact Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 and reference case number 10093934.