Reedley parks hit by vandals

REEDLEY, Calif.

A gazebo next to Reedley College marks the end of a mile long walkway to the Kings River. Most of the decorative fish connected to the gazebo are gone. Nearby trees have been pulled out -- rocks and signs have also been tagged with spray paint. City officials say someone is using an ax to try and chop down a hundred year old palm tree.

"It seems that it coincides with the downturn in the economy that we've had an escalation in graffiti and vandalism issues on city properties." said Public Works Director Russ Robertson.

The rails and trails walkway isn't the only area being targeted. Councilmember Anita Betancourt says similar acts of vandalism are happening at all of Reedley's city parks. At Mueller Park -- residents are coming up to her voicing their frustration.

"He says I hardly ever use it but the community center happened to be closed so I came out here to use it. He says I couldn't. I just walked out. I'm just letting you know." said Betancourt.

Betancourt showed us the inside of both the men's and women's restroom. Besides an unbearable stench -- we found sinks that either didn't have running water or had been pulled out completely. Trash cans have also been lit on fire -- creating several problems for parks and recreation workers.

Reporter: "Is it frustrating?"

Betancourt: "It's really frustrating it really is because you know this is our community and we need to take pride in it."

Robertson says cleaning up the mess hasn't been easy. He's already had to lay off two part-time parks workers because of a citywide budget deficit -- leaving him with only six people to tackle the seemingly never ending problem.

"Worst case scenario is that we would have to end up closing and locking the restrooms to the public which is unfortunate. That is the worst case scenario, we hate to do that especially in the summer when the parks are heavily utilized." said Robertson.

And city officials hope to avoid closing parks down by having he public report any suspicious activity to Reedley Police.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.