Vandalism at small rural parks around the county is a constant problem, but one the public rarely seems to care about. Clay County Parks and Recreation Department Board President Kevin Girton hopes to change public opinion.
"We want the community to be involved. We experience new problems every year and would like their input," Girton said. "Our budget has been drastically cut, we've got just enough to cut the grass and keep up maintenance on what we have."
The park budget for maintaining small community parks in Carbon, Center Point, Coalmont, Knightsville, Poland, Saline City and Staunton was cut in half recent years. If the money is not used during the calendar year for purchasing new equipment, repairs, maintenance and lawn mowing, it is lost the next.
"That is taxpayers' money, but we hardly ever have community involvement at our monthly meetings. They only come when something is wrong," he said.
Girton hopes the recent news coverage about vandalism at Staunton's community park will raise awareness about the problems occurring around the county.
"It's frustrating when we repair something, or place something new in a park to have it destroyed within a few days," he said.
On Friday, vandals set fire to two Porta-Pots at Optimist Park. The units had been placed near the wood outhouse by members of the Clay Youth League in preparation of a Saturday softball tournament. Fire destroyed one Porta-Pot unit, causing minor damage to the other and singed the lower corner of the outhouse. Frustrated residents at the scene discussed ways to solve the problem in their community.
"They should be angry, it's 'their' park," Girton said. "Everyone should be angry. At least I hope they want to be involved in helping to find a solution and come to the board meeting this week. It's ironic really, when you think about it, that it's scheduled to be at the pavilion at Optimist Park."
The Clay County Parks & Recreation Department invite concerned citizens to attend the July board meeting at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday in Staunton.