By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Vandals caused an estimated $4,000 worth of damage in Cunningham Park, draining the pool in the aquatic center of about 200,000 gallons of water and throwing some large landscaping rocks into the reflecting pond.
The vandalism happened overnight Tuesday and was discovered by Parks and Recreation Department employees the next morning.
Few of the 2,500 people who attended Wednesday’s ceremony in the park marking the second anniversary of the 2011 tornado were aware of the previous night’s mischief. That’s because city employees worked quickly to get the landscaping around the pond repaired and the pool refilled in time for the afternoon ceremony and a free swim Wednesday night.
Joplin police first acknowledged the vandalism in a news release Thursday afternoon. Police Lt. Matt Stewart said it was not made public before that because the city did not want the information getting lost in the shuffle of the day’s other news coverage.
The pool was drained of all but 80,000 gallons of water. It takes 280,000 gallons to fill the pool. There was about 2 feet of water on the deep end when parks employees discovered the vandalism. The primary costs in the repair bill estimate are for the water and its chemical treatment, and the labor involved in removing rocks from the pond and rebuilding the bordering landscape.
The vandals broke a lock on a door to gain access to the mechanical operations of the pool and opened a drain valve. Police Lt. Darren Gallup said there is a good chance that more than one person was involved.
“We’ll be working with (parks and recreation employees) to increase security measures so this doesn’t happen again,” Gallup said.
ANYONE WITH INFORMATION about those responsible for the vandalism is being asked by authorities to contact police at 417-623-3131 or to submit a tip by using the “contact us” button at www.joplinpolice.org. Tips also may be submitted to Heartland Crimestoppers by calling 417-782-TIPZ or going online to www.heartlandtipz.com.