She was talking about the graffiti that city parks employee Gregory Gooch was trying to clean up on the walls in the new public restrooms and on the new picnic tables at Flournoy Park.
It did not take long for vandals to start ruining something new for the rest of the community. It apparently started only days after the park was opened to the public.
Gooch was scrubbing the worst table in the park when Ballí and Assistant Police Chief Kenneth Jefferson arrived to assess the damage.
Gooch, a retired Merchant Marine captain who went to work for the city’s parks department, said he had been trying a variety of methods to clean up the messes left by park users.
He and Jefferson were sure the damage was being done after dark, probably by someone using the new $200,000 skate park.
So far, the skating facility has not been vandalized. But city officials are not sure how long it will take to target that as well.
The vandals are using permanent markers to write obscenities and other slogans on the table tops and benches, Gooch said.
At first, Gooch was using a strong cleaner to try to get the graffiti off the picnic tables. But the chemical was damaging the coating applied to the concrete table tops.
“We’re having to go back to the 1950s method,” Gooch said. “Ajax and elbow grease. This does work. It just takes a long time.”
Gooch was wetting the table and bench tops, sprinkling on some cleaner and then scrubbing the marks with a stiff brush.
“This is the worst spot,” Gooch said as he scrubbed. “All the tables have some.”
The park employee also pointed to a spot where someone had used a heavy object to crack the coating on one table top and damage the concrete.
Gooch had already cleaned off some of the writing in the walls inside the men’s room of the spanking new public restrooms. Some of the writing was slightly visible. But Gooch said most of the writing was bleaching out of the paint.
“You can’t photograph some of it,” he said. The language would not be printable in a family newspaper.
Ballí and Jefferson discussed several methods the city may have to use to stop the vandalism on a park that opened to the public only days ago.
Jefferson said police will definitely have to patrol the park to make sure no one is using it after the 10 p.m. closing time.
Ballí said the park may need to be fenced. It would be impossible for the city to hire someone to sit in the park all day and night and monitor activity there.
Jefferson said officers will have to warn those who violate the 10 p.m. closing time and, if they repeat the violation, fine them in municipal court.
Ballí added that if the problem persists, the city may by forced to simply bulldoze the improvements and return Flournoy Park to its original condition. That would leave the property a flat patch of ground with no real amenities.
That is exactly what the city did about 30 years ago when vandals damaged public restrooms at Kohler Park so often that the cost of repairs made it impossible for the city to maintain the facilities.
The restroom building was demolished, and Kohler Park has not had public restrooms since.
The restooms at Flournoy Park have steel gates on them so they can be locked at night. But vandals can do their work at any time before the gates are locked.
Critics of the city’s improvements at parks across town had warned that vandals could end up ruining the improvements for everyone.
Jefferson spoke to some of the skaters at the park Friday morning and reminded them that it would be up to them and their fellow skaters to police the park. If they cannot stop the vandalism, they may lose the facilities they fought so hard to see built.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.