THE man responsible for looking after Darlington’s play parks has called on the public to help him tackle the ‘frustrating’ problem of repeated vandalism.
Peter Stockdale, Darlington Borough Council’s play area manager, who maintains the town’s 33 play parks, is forced to spend thousands of pounds making repairs to equipment and safety matting, removing graffiti and picking up glass and litter each year.
His call for people to report damage to the council as soon as possible, and to identify those responsible, has been backed by councillors Bob Carson and Steve Harker, who have dealt with a number of incidents at their local Denes play area.
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The Denes play park, installed several years ago to make up a gap in provision for local children, is popular with families and teenagers, but suffers serious problems with vandalism – more than a third of the annual repair budget for all play parks is spent there.
Mr Stockdale, who inspects every park in the town at least once a week, said his heart sank every time he walked into a park that had suffered vandalism.
He said: “Some parks don’t really suffer damage but there are some – The Denes, the park at Cocker Beck, and Eastbourne Park – that seem to be targeted repeatedly.
“We put some new swings up in Eastbourne park and they were cut down. I put them up reluctantly because I knew what would happen.
“I cover the parks by myself, so if there is damage it helps if people can report it so I can get out there as fast as possible.
“That happened this week at Bensham Park, when vandals had trashed the place. I was able to get out there much earlier than I would have and clean it up, which took three hours.
“It’s so frustrating because it’s kids damaging their own stuff.”
Councillor Harker said: “This is a popular park so it’s frustrating that a tiny minority choose to spoil it for others. We want to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to report it when they see something happening.
Cllr Carson added: “The word vandalism covers quite a wide area but some of what happens here is just criminal damage.”
Damage to play parks can be reported to the council on 01325-388777, via @darlingtonbc on Twitter or post on the council’s Facebook page.