Over €130k spent on repairs for vandalised playspaces

By Mary Dennehy

SOUTH Dublin County Council has in the past 18 months spent more than €130,000 on repairing playspaces targeted by vandalism, a growing issue which is negatively impacting on families – and the council’s ability to use its budget for the betterment of communities.

In recent months, a number of playspaces right across the county have been targeted by young vandals, who are lighting fires and damaging equipment.

Sean Walsh Park

Sean Walsh playground on fire recently

The most recent playspaces targeted include Sean Walsh Park, Griffeen Valley Park, Tymon Park, Hermitage Park, Balgaddy and Brookfield.

Despite the council, local politicians and members of the public condemning this behaviour, and The Echo regularly reporting on it, playspaces continue to be a target for mindless vandalism – with incidences on the increase.

A united approach is now needed to curb this destructive culture, which robs children of a safe place to play, explore and learn within their local area – and robs all residents of funding that should be used to build communities not repair.

In a comment to The Echo, Mary Maguire, a senior executive officer with South Dublin County Council said: “Playgrounds and play spaces play a very important role in the lives of children and are a crucial part of ensuring healthy childhoods in communities across the county.

“To date we have provided 34 playground/playspaces, with 17 being provided through a five-year Play Space Programme that commenced in 2014.

“Our concentration in these recent years is on the provision of playspaces that offer opportunities to play, and which allow children to develop their imagination, challenge their abilities, deal with risk and, critically, adapt to their own environment.

“The council therefore takes the issue of vandalism very seriously and continuously works to prevent it.”

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Dublin Fire Brigade in Griffeen Valley Park, Lucan

When designing play facilities, the council concentrates primarily on using suitable materials rather than on fencing to restrict entry.

There is also an emphasis on restricting potential for anti-social activity through choosing locations carefully and using natural materials, as opposed to rubber, which are less flammable.

Last year, the council spent €400k on the provision of playspaces, with €86k spent on repairs.

To date in 2018, €83k has been spent on the provision of playspaces while €48k has been spent on undoing the damage caused by young vandals.

The council added: “The council is also acutely conscious of the community benefits derived from sporting activity and currently provides and manages around 163 playing pitches and athletic facilities serving GAA, soccer, rugby, cricket and athletic clubs within the county.

“Ongoing problems associated with scramblers and quads are negatively impacting on such sporting and recreational facilities, and we continue to liaise with An Garda Síochána, community representatives and residents of various housing estates in relation to this issue.”

The current spend for the management of the county’s playing pitches for 2018, including repairs, is €134k while in 2017 around €265k was spent.

Working with a number of resident groups and clubs

The council is working with a number of resident groups and clubs to identify solutions to safeguard playing pitches, however, the costs are escalating.

“The Council is particularly cognisant that as requests for new and improved boundary treatments continue to be received, the potential cost of both honouring commitments already given, as well as responding positively to new requests received has the potential to escalate to a level where current financial provisions cannot meet what is required,” Ms Maguire said.

“We have also put in place a comprehensive procedure for the swift management of an escalating problem with abandoned and burnt-out cars in the interest of improving the quality of life and indeed safety of our citizens at many of these locations.”

The council is now urging residents to report acts of vandalism, and support the local authority in protecting public facilities.

“With regard to preventing future attacks on our public facilities, the council urges people to report any vandalism that they are aware of to the Council and the Gardai,” Ms Maguire said.

“We also would implore children not to get involved with individuals or groups whom they suspect are intent on vandalism, and we would remind parents to be mindful of their children’s activities.”

She added: “As a council we have made huge commitments to providing high-quality play, and sporting facilities across the county in recent years, and we are committed to keeping them operational. 

“We have a close relationship with local Gardai across the County, who have given a lot of resources to preventing problems in or at our facilities and we will continue to cooperate with them, and the public at large, in the management of this anti-social problem.”

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