Danville Express

Newsfront - October 26, 2007

Vandals targeting Livorna Park

Graffiti hard to remove from concrete walls

by Natalie O'Neill

Alamo vandals are proving sloppy graffiti isn't just an inner-city eyesore.

Livorna Park has been inundated with repeated instances of vandalism over the last four months - including spray-painted words on the bathroom of the quiet, semi rural recreation grounds.

"The park has been interesting lately, we now have vandals that are not gophers," said Hillary Heard, senior planner for the Contra Costa County Public Works Department.

County services have been poised, paint brushes in hand, to cover up the offending images. But it's not always as simple as a quick brush over. Location of the graffiti can make for a time consuming removal process, county staff said.

"We got all the graffiti off the inside of the bathroom. We just paint over it. But it's harder to do that with the raw concrete outside," Heard told the Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee last week.

October budget reports show that parks and recreation funds used in response to vandalism increased from about $400 to $5,400 in the past two fiscal years. That includes general labor services but not county staff time spent working on the issue.

In this case, a secluded backside of the outer restroom wall was damaged.

"If somebody was at the park, they could be tagging there and no one would see them," said Marie-Jeanne Parsons, chairwoman of the committee.

In July, a copper sign that read "Livorna Park" was ripped from its mounting plaque. And before that, profanities were engraved in the play structures.

"It's an ongoing problem. They go in and etch unmentionable words in the kids' play areas," said committee member Nancy Dommes.

County staff reported that even with the overall vandalism flare-up, it has cooled down since school started. This leads committee members to believe it's teenagers doing the dirty work.

"It's saying something. Maybe kids think it's funny to destroy public property," Parsons said.

While graffiti as an art form has gained popularity among urban and even suburban teenagers, the public tends to frown on defacing public property in the name of tagging. The general sentiment is that spray paint art should be admired in galleries - not on phone booths, park bathrooms and bus stops.

The graffiti at Livorna Park appears to read "Love" in red, orange and blue paint and is followed by two girls' names.

Committee members speculate Livorna Park has had the most vandalism because there are few houses nearby and it has two points of entry, making it easier to get away with the act.

County Public Works personnel have "gotten to know the Sheriff's department very well" when working on preventing vandalism at the park, Heard said.

"We clearly have a problem," Parsons said.


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