Vandalized park dampens community

Chris Caraveo's picture

A drive throughout a neighborhood near 103rd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road reveals all one needs to know about the problems the area faces.

Ridiculousness.

Residents living in the Country Place community of Estrella Village have been subject to a group of people vandalizing its park and surrounding areas in the worst of ways.

Ripped irrigation lines.

Broken water meter boxes.

Tire marks over wet grass.

Trees hacked with an ax.

Burned plastic coating on Ramada tables.

Oleander bushes set on fire.

Beer bottles and cigarettes on the ground.

The worst? Shards of glass properly placed in the sand at a playground where children descending the slide could step on and injure themselves.

“What kind of sick mind does this?” Country Place Homeowners Association President Charisse Walls said.

That is what the community wants to find out. A $2,000 reward has been put out for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the damage.

About 3,000 homes comprise the Country Place community, which is two miles south of Interstate 10 near Lower Buckeye and 99th Avenue.

Walls, who has lived in Country Place since 2004 and leads the community’s Block Watch program, said the vandalism started around March and April. The park itself is located near 103rd Avenue and Hughes Drive.

“We’re kind of in the forgotten zone,” Walls said. “We really, really need some help.”

Country Place has been in contact with the Phoenix Police Department. Walls rode along with two officers June 14 to show them the damage.

Maryvale and Estrella Mountain Precinct Cmdr. Ed DeCastro encourages people to continue calling Phoenix police when the acts or any crimes are taking place. Officers circulate in the area when call volume permits.

Country Place hired LandCare Unlimited as its new landscaper in May, well after some of the vandalism had occurred. About 12 people are tasked with maintaining the park on a daily basis.

LandCare Unlimited Director of HOA Operations Alex Bowman said one of the more recent incidents involved the cutting down of four big trees with an ax at night.

“How crazy is that?” he said. “That was the final straw.”

On Facebook, Walls said someone destroyed the Hunter solar panel that adjusts and distributes water to the grass and plants.

Bowman said damages to the park total about $20,000.

 “It’s very expensive for the community,” he said, with Walls adding that the cost for repairs will likely fall on homeowners and renters in the form of HOA fees unless the suspects are found.

Bowman visits the park daily Monday through Friday to fix the irrigation, pick up trash and whatever else he can do to help.

In an email, Mary Ehlers, a co-lead with the Block Watch, said the damage costs are not what concerns her and other community members. Rather, she wants residents living along the ravaged areas to report when something happens. Not far from the park, a block wall dividing Country Place and Elgin Tree Farm was taken down.

"When do we say enough is enough and stand up for what is right, not only for ourselves, but of those of our children, our future," Ehlers said.

Walls said every time the community straightens up the park, someone goes back and destroys it. She worries the vandalism may not stop with Country Place.

“If they’re doing this to us, they’re going to do this to other people,” Walls said.

Most of the incidents happen at night and are reported after the fact, rather than while they are in progress or when a suspect is present, Sgt. Vincent Lewis said.

Board members have walked around the neighborhood to try to find out any information.

Walls said the community is trying to get a city park established but the recent incidents do not help its case.

It is not known how many people are up to the crimes or what their ages are. But officials hope awareness of the issue can lead residents and anyone else to help put an end to the crimes pervading the community.

"Together we need to stand united as a group to fight this battle before it gets any worse," Ehlers said. "We deserve to be heard and we will be."

 

Chris Caraveo can be reached at ccaraveo@westvalleyview.com.

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