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Saturday, August 15, 2015

How Senseless Destruction Of A Children's Park Can Bring A Community Together

Today I thought that I would show you a picture of an area of my town.  It's not often that I talk about places in my hometown, but in this case, I'll make an exception.

I snapped this picture on July 4, 2013.  A little over a couple of years ago.  The place is a park called Hardy Park, and it's been a part of my town for many years.  The park is located right in the heart of the city waterfront, and it's a place that holds a lot of meaning for a lot of people, including myself.

These days, Hardy Park is the place where RibFest is held - a summer festival where vendors set up shop and barbecue ribs and chicken for a crowd of hungry people.  It's the only time of the year in which our town population temporarily doubles in size.  But years ago it was the site for a lot of other things.  It was the site for our Teddy Bear Picnic for a number of years.  I remember lots of volleyball games and sporting events taking place at Hardy Park over the years.

In fact, one of my earliest memories of Hardy Park just happens to be one of the most random.  I remember being in Hardy Park with one of my sisters (at the time, our house was located near the downtown area), and I seem to remember there being a clown standing in the middle of the park, handing out balloons to all of the kids who happened to be in the park that day.  I ended up with a yellow one.  I definitely know that it was yellow.  And later that day, a parade was going on in the area, and I also distinctly remember standing on a downtown corner in front of a grocery store called "Mr. Grocer" holding my yellow balloon and waving at all of the parade floats that passed by. 

Again, one of the most random memories ever, but I know it began in Hardy Park.

Of course, this was back in 1985, and Hardy Park was just a place where people strolled through just to grab an ice cream at nearby Block House Island.  Over the years, Hardy Park has become a real community hub.  There's plenty of benches for people to sit down.  There are paths that encircle the area where you can ride your bike or just marvel at the beautiful scenery.  And there was a playground structure where kids of all ages could get exercise and have fun doing it.

Key word...was.

This is what the play structure looks like now.  Yesterday morning in the wee hours, it was set ablaze.  It's most certainly an arson investigation.  No way that this fire was accidental at all.  At this time, it's unknown as to who the guilty party or parties is, and as of now, there's no information to be found.

All I know is that this was a criminal act...and I'm so upset that this happened.

There's a lot of emotions flowing through my mind as I type this.  The first that comes to mind is sadness.  The fact that a children's playground was the target of such pointless vandalism just breaks my heart, as well as the hearts of the hundreds of people who pass by Hardy Park on a daily basis.  The playground was easily the most beautiful of all of the parks in this community and I know lots of children loved it.  Now they can't even play on it because of the damage - which is estimated to be over ten thousand dollars.

Then my sadness turns to anger.  Anger towards the people who torched the play structure and ran like scared rats afraid to face up to what they did.  In all likelihood, this crime was done by someone who was either so bored with their life that they wanted to do something destructive, or someone who held a grudge against the city and wanted to take out the one place that held such meaning to a lot of people.  There is absolutely no excuse.  No justification.  End of story.  Whoever did this needs to be punished for it. 

And don't even get me started on the Young Offenders Act that will protect anyone under the age of 18 for criminal acts.  If the perpetrator is a teenager, the teen has parents or guardians, right?  Make them pay for the damage and have the kid do thousands of hours of community service to pay for the damages.  Heck, make he or she help rebuild the play structures that they helped destroy!  That'd be a nice slice of humble pie for them to choke down.

My anger then turns to frustration towards the law enforcement of the town.  I get it.  My community is a small riverfront town that very rarely sees any serious criminal activity.  But that doesn't mean that the police force has the right to fall asleep at the wheel.  Why were there not any CC cameras in the area?  It's a public place where lots of people gather.  I would think that they would be mandatory.  And, why is more not being done to try and find out who did the crime in the first place?  Yes, I know that it happened at around five in the morning, but certainly someone must have seen something. 

But I suppose the biggest frustration about all of this is that in this community, vandalism occurs almost on a weekly basis.  It's just that this time, the target was a huge one.  But there's no excuse for defacing this sundial that is located on the waterfront, just as there was no excuse to vandalize telephone poles, fences, mailboxes, and other city property.  We're all supposed to be a part of a community here.  Why is it that some of us just want to destroy it?  How dare you?

But that's where the final emotion comes into play.  The emotion of joy and hope.  You see, I'm not the only one who is angered by the destruction of Hardy Park.  The entire community is just as heartbroken about this as I am, and they are taking action to help rebuild it.  Fundraising efforts are underway to raise the money to fix up the park, which I think is great.  It kind of gives me hope that maybe the people of this city aren't so bad.  

I'll admit that my own relationship with this community has been lukewarm at best, but this event has really made me take a step back and realize that this is a great community, and that we all have a responsibility to make it that way.

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