Bijou Park bashed by vandals
The doors to Bijou Community Park’s rest rooms read, “Closed due to vandalism – will remain closed indefinitely.” Signs were posted after the facility’s insides were ripped apart over the weekend.
On Saturday night, vandals wreaked havoc to the bathroom and damaged the tile mural in the Kiwanis picnic shelter donated by the Lake Tahoe Kiwanis Club in 1992. South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation staff members discovered the vandalism Sunday morning.
Staff first discovered that the mural had been crushed by rocks and reported it to the police.
Debi Hamel, a member of the Kiwanis Club wasn’t aware of the vandalism and said that its repair will be discussed at their next meeting. Hamel said she was disappointed to hear about the senseless act.
After the mural had been reported, park staff entered the bathrooms and saw chunks of porcelain that had been broken from sinks and toilets on the floor.
“They totally broke all the fixtures,” Steve Weiss, parks superintendent said of the rest rooms’ 12 sinks and toilets. The mirrors were also shattered. He added that there have been smaller incidents of park vandalism in the past but not to the extent of two completely destroyed bathrooms.
“It wasn’t that (the vandals) were mad that they couldn’t get into the rest rooms,” Weiss said of the facilities that remain unlocked and unsupervised at night.
“Personally, I think they should lock (the doors) at night,” said Gary Lefler, owner of All Seasons Plumbing who is working on an unrelated maintenance project at the park.
High Sierra, a city-contracted patrol company, has patrolled South Shore parks for 11 years. It patrols Bijou Park from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, but the rest of the year, the heavily used park is left open to the honor system.
“It’s not fair,” said one South Shore resident riding her bike. “When I ride to the park, I just expect to be able to use the bathroom. Now it’s ruined for everyone.”
“(Parks and Recreation) does something nice for the community and look at what happens,” said Bill Mohrdick, owner of Mohrdick Electric who is working at the park with Lefler.
“It’s a mess.It is sad someone would do that,” Lefler added.
Weiss believes that the culprits entered the bathrooms and crushed the fixtures with rocks they picked up from around the park.
An 8-inch rock still sits in the bowl of a ruined toilet and pieces of other rocks line the floor.
“There was not too much to fingerprint,” Weiss said. “They used rocks and rocks are too porous to take prints off of.
“We have no idea who did this. It is so disheartening.”
The park always has a little graffiti, downed signs and broken beer bottles littering the ground, but that is typical stuff, Weiss said.
“Compared to a big city we’ve got nothing,” he added.
Weiss thinks that the vandals were bored on a rainy Saturday night in search of something to do and unfortunately chose to destroy park property.
“They were in and out so quickly, even if someone did hear a noise and called to report it, (the vandals) would have already gone,” Weiss said.
Repairs will cost the city an estimated $6,000, according to Weiss, adding that he plans to write letters to the city manager and the police chief about raising repair money.
“We are bringing in a porta-potty,” Weiss said, which will cost the city $125 for every month the park rents it.
Weiss is thankful that the bathrooms don’t require re-plumbing because repair costs would be much higher.
Parks and Recreation will look into replacing the porcelain fixtures with more expensive, more resistant stainless steel fixtures and polished metal mirrors might be installed instead of traditional glass that is easily broken.
Weiss is working with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department in hopes of catching the vandals. There will be a Secret Witness reward for anyone who has any information.
Although Police Commander Rich McGuffin said that these types of cases aren’t easily solved, he said there is still hope, especially in a case that involves the destruction of a community recreation facility.
Weiss and McGuffin hope that people are offended and that someone will come forward with information that would lead to an arrest.
Call the Secret Witness hotline
Secret Witness Phone Number (530) 541-6800
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