VANDALS have caused the closure of a £125,000 children’s play area at Carnlough.
Protective safety surfacing intended to cushion falls from play equipment was ripped up at the weekend and dumped in a neighbouring property and two pieces of play equipment were damaged. On Monday, police attended the scene near Beachlands and Larne Borough Council, which owns the park, padlocked the gate and erected signs informing the public that the facility had been shut “due to vandalism”.
Police are treating the incident as criminal damage and appealed to anyone who may have been in the area at the time of the incident to contact them on 0845 600 8000, or contact the independent Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The damage angered Carnlough man Adam Wilkinson, who said vandalism is “a regular occurrence” at the park.
“They ripped off the safety surface like carpet in some places, broke a wooden train feature intended for toddlers and ripped out seats where parents could keep an eye on their children,” he explained.
“It was pure vandalism and happened just ahead of the Carnlough Carnival, which starts there every year,” he added.
“Local people raised a substantial sum of money to help pay for the construction of the play park,” said Adam on Monday. “Last night I confronted a group of young people who had gone over the fence into the park and told them they should know better because it was their parents who had paid for it.
“It’s frustrating, because the community had to fight hard for the play park in the first place. People have confronted those responsible, but they are met with a barrage of abuse and although the police have been informed on several occasions, nothing ever seems to come of it.”
A spokesperson for Larne Borough council explained why it was necessary to shut the gate: “The polymer-based surface has been ripped out at regular intervals throughout the park to the extent that there was no other option but to close it for repair, otherwise there is the possibility that the complete surface is in danger of being ripped out, which in turn would add to the cost of repair. There is also the possibility of someone being injured if it was left open.”
Parks staff are said to be seeking quotes to repair the play area and it is not yet possible to determine when it can re-open, she added.
“Every effort is being made to turn it around as quickly as possible,” said the spokesperson, who said community fundraising, a Council contribution of £50,000 and grants from both the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers had enabled construction and opening of the facility in 2005.
“The play area has been subjected to a number of incidents of vandalism over the years,” she added. “A particularly bad one occurred a couple of years ago which cost approximately £7,000 to Council to repair.
“Council continues to maintain its playgrounds throughout the borough on a regular basis, but is finding it increasingly more difficult to keep up with the amount of vandalism that the playgrounds have been subjected to.”