CRESWELL — Minor acts of vandalism at Holt Park – in apparent retaliation for the City’s public health and safety measures due to the pandemic, already has cost around $700 in time and material, said Public Works Director Cliff Bellew. 

With the new requirements from the Oregon Health Authority requiring parks be closed, on Monday, May 18, the City of Creswell purchased and installed temporary safety fencing. It restricted the areas that were required to be closed.

The City also installed signage letting residents know what and why they were taking these actions. 

At 9 p.m. Monday, Bellew said someone removed all the fencing around the park equipment and around the picnic pavilion. The fencing from the park equipment was then placed in the porta potty on site, and the fencing from the pavilion was ripped into smaller unusable pieces and placed in one of the trash cans in the park, he said. 

This is not the first attempt, he said. “Since the closing of the parks we installed caution ribbons to close the playground area and picnic pavilion that has been ripped down and removed numerous times,” Bellew said. “We have been just replacing the ribbon up till now.”

“Our response doesn’t have anything to do with the politics,” City Manager Michelle Amberg said. “This is about vandalism at the park and that is how we are looking at that.”

Amberg said the vandalism is a criminal mischief offense, punishable by up to one year in jail and $6,000 fine. The City released a video of the alleged offender on its Facebook page Tuesday.

An important point, Amberg said, is the city will not be insured for use of the park if it doesn’t not follow the Phase I guidelines. 

“We are insured through City County Insurance and they are in process of releasing an advisory document, and are expected to follow Center for Disease Control guidelines, which means no playgrounds,” Amberg said. 

Bellew said that the city is required to uphold the state’s rules and regulations as they pertain to the health and welfare of the community. 

Public Works will install more robust fencing in hopes that would deter this type of vandalism, Bellew said. 

There have been no other reported acts of vandalism on City-owned properties related to governor’s oders, Bellew said. Amberg said that when vandals do strike elsewhere, the same signage and protocols are put in place. 

“Areas that are closed under the Phase I guidance are restrooms, courts, playgrounds and tables,” Amberg said. People are not prohibited from using the park’s open areas, walking trails and the bicycle station.

The city-provided restrooms at the park were decommissioned over the winter to keep the pipes from freezing, Amberg said, and the City was not able to reopen them during COVID-19 because they do not have staff available to regularly sanitize the building.