Vandals spray-paint graffiti in Portage park

January 19, 2019

Somebody spray-painted crude words on playground equipment and other facilities in a Portage park, and police and park officials aren’t happy about it.

Portage Police Lt. Dan Garrigan said the graffiti at Pine Meadow Park, in the 800 block of Hamilton Street, appears to be the work of “potty-mouth” vandals.

“Here we have a parks and recreation department that does a great job of getting our parks upgraded, and we have an issue like this,” he said.

According to Garrigan, the first report of the graffiti came Sunday from representatives of the Portage Youth Football organization, who said their equipment storage facility at Pine Meadow Park had been among the facilities covered with graffiti. Also targeted were several pieces of playground equipment and the park’s tennis courts. There were no reports of residences in the area being vandalized, he said.

Parks and Recreation Manager Dan Kremer said he has no dollar estimate of the damage, but repairing it will cost the city — not only money for supplies, but also the time of city workers.

There are chemicals that can be applied to the playground equipment to remove most or all of the graffiti, Kremer said. However, the painted asphalt surface of the tennis courts — which was refurbished almost five years ago — can’t be cleaned with water until the weather warms up, he said.

“I’m not going to say it’s common, but vandalism does happen in our parks,” Kremer said. “We have vandalism, but hardly ever to this level.”

Garrigan said there is no evidence that the graffiti was gang-related.

A post on the police department’s Facebook page described the graffiti as “inappropriate, offensive and obscene” words.

Although Portage does not have any gang activity even remotely as violent and illicit as is seen in large metropolitan areas, Garrigan said there are a few “wannabe” gang imitators in the area — but he doubts they’re responsible for the graffiti.

“This vandalism doesn’t look like gangs marking their territory,” he said.

It’s likely, however, that someone living or driving near the park saw something there, Garrigan said, because any activity in Portage parks is unusual when the weather is cold or inclement.

Meanwhile, Kremer said, the Parks and Recreation Department will do its best to clean up the graffiti now, and consider future updates of the Pine Meadow playground equipment, which dates back to the 1990s. The department will soon undertake an update of its comprehensive outdoor recreation plan.