VANDALS who wrecked a new allotment facility in Larne’s historic Dixon Park at the weekend have been branded “sick, mindless thugs” by a local community representative.
A new polytunnel, which was erected just three months ago, was destroyed in the early hours of Sunday in what has been described as a “frenzied attack”. It is thought that the culprits scaled the park’s fence before slashing the facility’s plastic covers.
Ann Marshall, chairwoman of Dixon Park Resident’s Association, said she and a number of other local people have been left heartbroken by the “wanton destruction” of the polytunnel, which is to be the site of a new gardening club for the community.
She told the Times: “This is a big disappointment for residents who were looking forward to using the facility, which was due to be opened within the next month. I had a resident phoning me in tears on Sunday morning after the damage was discovered.
“The community association received over £3,000 for this project from the Community Safety Partnership last year and we have ordered over £600 worth of plants for the facility.
“We are going to raise flower beds, grow tomatoes and put up hanging baskets, and a lot of people have expressed an interest in getting involved. It will be a real cross-community initiative.
“Luckily, the plants had not yet been placed in the polytunnel and the benches have not yet been installed, or this attack could have been much worse.”
Ann estimates that the repair bill for the damage will be “in the hundreds of pounds” and added: “This project has been in the pipeline for about a year, and within minutes some sick, mindless thugs have wrecked it.
“I know that young people from this area were not responsible for this attack, as the residents’ association has a good relationship with local teenagers.
“But whoever carried out this cowardly attack has set the project back drastically. We will now have to look into taking some precautions before we can open the facility, such as installing CCTV in the park, otherwise this could just happen again. The lack of police presence in the town doesn’t help much.”
Larne Town Councillor Drew Niblock condemned the vandalism and urged local people to be vigilant against attacks of this nature.
He added: “Community groups like the Dixon Park Residents’ Association go to a lot of effort to bring about initiatives such as this, and when someone comes along and thoughtlessly destroys it overnight, it is very frustrating and disheartening.
“Someone out there knows who committed this crime and I would appeal for them to come forward and provide information to the police. If anyone sees any suspicious activity in parks within the borough, pick up the phone and report it.”
Police have asked anyone with information about the attack to contact them at Larne on 0845 600 8000. Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.