Keep Dalhart parks a treasure
By Robin Scott
Dalhart is home to several beautiful parks that are designed for all ages to enjoy, hold family reunions and picnics, school picnics, or just to sit and relax. Five parks are neighborhood parks open to everyone, and three additional park areas and a fishing pond are located at Lake Rita Blanca. All of Dalhart’s parks are the product of many years of hard work and dedication to not only have them built in the first place, but to maintain them on a daily basis so that residents, visitors and travelers may use them for an hour or even an entire day or overnight.
Sadly, vandals are diminishing the value or Dalhart’s beautiful parks and recently the vandalism has escalated causing thousands of dollars in damages that has lead to a plea to citizens to aid in saving the parks from destruction.
Dalhart City Manager Greg Duggan provided commentary on a recent tour of the city parks. The parks have been a source of pride for Duggan as many have been built or upgraded during his 21-year tenure over the city. Pointing out the senseless and deliberate destruction to equipment at each of the parks was a sad endeavor for Duggan and something he describes as, “So hard to imagine.”
The tour of the parks to assess recent damage began at Veterans Memorial Park located at 7th Street and Rock Island Avenue. The park is affectionately called the 7th Street Park and is the backdrop for numerous community events and family outings. One of the great attractions at the 7th Street Park for many years has been the Merry-Go-Round. Almost a thing of the past, merry-go-rounds conjure up countless fond memories from every age. Vandals have all but completely destroyed the merry-go-round at the 7th Street Park and the damage occurred sometime in the early Tuesday morning hours. Duggan stated, “It appears that people were rocking it back and forth with such force that it was actually broken off of its base and is now just sitting on the ground.” The merry-go-round, which has been a symbol of fun and play at the park for decades, may not be repaired unless the city is able to locate a replacement base. Duggan noted, “I have no idea what it’s even going to cost because we may not even be able to find parts to fix it.”
Other damage at the park includes graffiti and cracks in the slides that will require new pieces to replace those destroyed at a cost of hundreds of dollars for each broken section of the slides.
Duggan and other city employees regularly travel through the parks as a part of their upkeep. Finding new acts of vandalism always brings grief and disappointment. Duggan stated, “Recent damage at the North Side Park is truly unbelievable.” Upon arriving at the park, Duggan removed some duct tape covering holes in the slides that were made using some type of saw. He noted, “I can’t believe this. Someone has used a saw to cut away portions of the slide leaving these holes.” The material in the slides is plastic that is more than a quarter inch thick, so the damage would have taken quite some time and would also have been deliberate, requiring the saw to be brought to the park in order to cause the damage.
All of the parks have damage to the picnic tables. Dalhart chose not to use wooden tables, but paid for tables that were covered in a plastic coating making them more comfortable and durable. Unfortunately, vandals find enjoyment in peeling away the plastic coating. One table was so badly damaged at the Swimming Park located at Tennessee and Texas Streets that the table was removed on Tuesday morning. The tables under the pavilion at the park have provided seating for hundreds of events, including the city’s annual employee picnic. Duggan commented, “Now not only is a table missing, but the others have been carved up to expose the metal underneath.” Duggan also pointed out graffiti at the Swimming Park both on the concrete slab of the pavilion and on one of the drops at the skate park. He noted, “I don’t know what the symbols mean, but they are the same in both places.” City employees continually remove graffiti at all of the parks, and they also continually repair damage to the skate parks risers where people attempt to pull them apart.
Damage at the fishing pond is especially sad, as the fishing pier will have to be removed altogether. Duggan stated, “We are going to have to take the pier out because we cannot locate the handrails that were all taken out. Also a piece of the pier itself is missing, and we have no way of fixing this.” The city stocks the fishing pond yearly at a cost of approximately $5,000 and damage to the pond and other parks could eventually lead to the closure if the city is unable to pay for repairs or find replacement equipment and parts.
Duggan offers a plea to area residents by stating, “Please use our parks, and enjoy them. They are here for you and your families. If you see anyone doing anything that appears suspicious please report it immediately. We can’t keep an eye on them all of the time, and we need our citizens to help us keep them beautiful.” Recently, a family that held a birthday party at the pavilion of the skate park left all of their trash behind for the city employees to clean up. Duggan noted, “If you have an outing at one of the parks, please pick up after yourself so that others coming in behind you may have the same enjoyment that you had.”
Anyone with information about the vandalism at Dalhart’s parks is asked to contact the city at 244.5511. If vandalism it witnessed, please contact 911. Duggan has asked the Dalhart Police Department to patrol the park areas more frequently and to ask anyone discarding trash inappropriately to take care of it properly. Keeping Dalhart parks beautiful and useable is an endeavor that takes a great deal of planning and effort by the city, and one that all residents should take pride in. A beautiful park speaks volumes about a city, and indicates how much a city cares for itself. Everyone is encouraged to help police the parks and minimize the vandalism and damage. The damage hurts everyone. The parks belong to the people of Dalhart, so their destruction should cause outrage by everyone.