GRAMPIAN – With vandalism an ongoing problem, a community work day has been planned for May 16 at Bilger’s Rocks.
Bilger’s Rocks is a privately-owned property in Grampian that is open to the general public as a rock park and recreation area.
“[It was] created with the mindset to help bring communities and families together,” said Bilger’s Rocks Association President Dennis Biancuzzo.
“Unfortunately, the park has become the victim of nuisance crimes such as excessive littering, theft and especially vandalism.”
Vandalism has taken many forms at the park, Biancuzzo said, including attempts to burn trees, destruction of swing sets, a burned picnic table and stolen signs.
“The least costly … is the destruction of signs,” he said, noting that destruction of private property can be very costly to repair.
Biancuzzo said at times, park vandals are children who are bored and find mischief, while vandalism is often related to young adults with addiction and mental health issues.
He said volunteers have invested many hours to maintain the park, and they need to “take it back” because if destruction continues, it only empowers those responsible.
He said the community is and has always been the intended recipient of the park, but people have become fearful to even walk in the area.
“What does it mean to take back the park? [… It means to show that the park isn’t theirs, it’s owned by the Bilger’s Rock Association.”
Biancuzzo said the association plans to prevent park vandalism through community education and creation of community events at the park.
Other plans include the immediate repair of damaged equipment and the usage of “vandalism deterrent cameras.”
“It was built to bring recreation and joy to all …,” Biancuzzo said, adding that it will remain a mystery why people want to vandalize this wonderful place.
“… The fact remains that our park is easily accessible to the public, and as such, will continue to be a likely target for would-be vandals.
“… These vandals obviously don’t take into consideration the toll of the consequences of their actions on the community who enjoys visits to Bilger’s Rocks.”
In addition to the physical dangers of vandalism, Biancuzzo said it causes emotional distress for park patrons when they learn of these crimes.
He also reminded that children who frequent Bilger’s Rocks are inspired to develop their creative imagination and social bonds when they are engaged in “free play.”
If there’s a park closure due to vandalism, he said children are deprived of emotional development, which can lead to depression and anxiety in social situations.
“A child may not fully comprehend how or why someone has vandalized their play area,” Biancuzzo said, “leading to acting out, anger episodes and fits.”
He said he wonders if the recurrent vandalism may lead residents to believe “neighborhood crime” is on the rise, causing fear, mistrust and anxiety toward others.
“This … personal isolation leaves a community more susceptible and vulnerable to further crime and acts of violence,” he said, which is “dark road” to go down.
Biancuzzo said the association welcomes residents, groups and organizations to a community work day at the park May 16 beginning at 12 p.m.
Biancuzzo said they’ll form groups to tackle the vandalized areas at the park, as well as to complete some repairs and to clean up.
Anyone who is interested can contact Biancuzzo at 814-553-5744 or Barb at 814-236-3597. People are also free to show up, with plenty of gloves and materials available.
Biancuzzo said since the vandalism has become public, people have offered their trail cameras for surveillance and monetary donations.
He said T-shirts will also be sold as part of a fundraiser to help alleviate any costs to replace damaged property and to purchase more trail cameras.