By Bonnie Culverhouse
Minden has several city-owned parks – Babb, Ewell and Victory are the three major parks with splash pads. They all suffer from occasional vandalism, but one of those three seems to be hit more than the others … Victory.
“It’s our best park, and the one that gets torn up the most,” Mayor Nick Cox said. Cox went on to explain a cooperative agreement between the city and CenterPoint Energy during the last administration.
“The city put in a self-paced workout gym at Victory Park and CenterPoint Energy funded a lot of it,” he said. “There are decals that give credit to the City of Minden and CenterPoint with instructions in vinyl wrap. But now you’re on your own because someone has torn the decals off and started the process of destroying them.”
Cox said the prior administration locked the bathroom doors because of vandalism, however, when he was elected Rec Center Director Zita Williams went with him to Victory to unlock those doors.
“I felt like the citizens of Minden shouldn’t have to use the restroom outside at Victory Park … that was on a Wednesday,” Cox said. “By Friday, the commode was destroyed totally … ripped out of the wall, along with the plumbing. It took two days to destroy the bathrooms.”
Cox said the “sad thing was, I didn’t even tell anybody we unlocked them.”
In a workshop Monday, Cox talked with council members about different ways to get the vandalism under control.
“I want to put surveillance in all our parks,” Cox said. “We already have a degree of it, but I don’t want to be reactive-minded. I want to be proactive.”
In order to do that, someone would have to monitor the cameras, he pointed out.
“We need to stop it before it’s happening and before it gets carried away,” he added.
Public Works Director Tyler Wallace recommended Minden Steam Plant employees who must be at the plant around the clock.
Wallace said those employees could watch the cameras as part of their jobs. Minden’s IT department is currently working on a plan to install cameras – except, the mayor added, in the restrooms. “We don’t want to do that anyway, but we can put them on the workout equipment, and if we see someone tearing them up, we can get the police there quickly.”
The mayor also asked Police Chief Jared McIver for verbiage aid, so if the equipment includes an intercom, the person monitoring it can “push a button and say, hey, we’re watching you, and you’re tearing up the property of the citizens of Minden and the police are on their way.”
District E Councilman Andy Pendergrass lives near the park and said he has spent “a lot of time thinking about this.”
“It’s teenagers,” Pendergrass said. “I’ve seen some adults actually using the equipment, but the teenagers are also on the playground equipment. I’ve had people in my district with young kids say ‘hey, I can’t take my kids to play there because the teenagers are on it. Can we do anything?’”
The council discussed a code or card swipe in order to enter the gates or bathrooms, however, the mayor’s concern stems around destruction of those, as well.
Zita Williams said there was once keypad access to the restrooms.
“But they were torn up,” she said. “That’s why in the previous administration, we went back to the regular locking system.”
“With the swipe strip, at least we would have their information, so we would know who it is,” Pendergrass added, saying three police units responded immediately to a fight at Victory Park recently. “But then, they all came back and stayed there after the police left. You can’t get them out of there.”
The mayor added, “We want them to use the park, we just don’t want them to tear them up.”