Repeated vandalism costing thousands of dollars in damages have prompted the City of Parksville to temporarily remove a swing for people with disabilities from a park playground.
The swing, located in Community Park, had a ramp for children in wheelchairs to use but had to be locked up with a code — readily available to adults — due to liability concerns after a small child without disabilities was injured on it.
But the lock was repeatedly broken and smashed by vandals and pieces of it strewn about at night, costing the city $10,000 since spring.
"The City is extremely disappointed," a city media release said. "However, ongoing graffiti and vandalism to the swing has made this decision necessary."
The release said staff and the local Lions Club which raised money for the swing, are disheartened. It said the swing has been removed because of safety concerns "until such time as security for the park and the wheelchair swing can be improved."
Kids 'don't deserve to be hurt'
The Parksville Lions Club fundraised over $15,000 three years ago to build the swing and pays for ongoing maintenance in the playground.
Chair James Barrand says his group and the city both decided to remove the swing until a solution could be found.
"I get so frustrated," Barrand told All Points West host Jason D'Souza about the vandalism.
"Why are you doing this? All you're doing is hurting young kids who don't deserve to be hurt."
Barrand says there are few places where kids with disabilities can use playground equipment and play with other kids in such an integrated way and nothing else in Community Park.
"It's tough for ones in wheelchairs to do anything in these parks because there's sand, grass, whatever," he said.
"We have a nice place for a wheelchair person to go and use and they can feel like they can go and be part of that community. Otherwise, they're left out in the cold. And it's really not right."
Listen to the full interview with James Barrand:
'It's really a sad thing'
Local people expressed disappointment when they found out about the swing's removal.
Erica Kroeger, at the park Thursday with two young children, called it a "real shame."
Added resident Carol Blann: "It's really a sad thing that it can't be here for the kids who need it most."
Amira Balatti used the swing and enjoyed the accessibility it offered, her friend Leann Chislett said.
"It's important for people like Amira to be able to come out and be a part of everyday life," Chislett said. "And it makes it really difficult when individuals can't respect that."
Barrand says the Lions Club is working to find a solution to the security issues, but noted their fundraising is stretched thin these days: they're already working with the local Rotary Club to raise $100,000 for a splash park.
He says the playground equipment could be gone for several weeks or over a month.
With files from Chek News and CBC Radio One's All Points West