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Frank Gray

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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Brea Cowen, 9, takes a drink from the fountain in front of a section where thieves stole panels of a fence at Hanna Homestead Park. Within the last week, seven sections of the fence have gone missing.

Thieves ravage park fence

7 sections vanish, but as scrap, they won’t fetch much

About 2004 the East Central Neighborhood Association decided it was time to clean up the neighborhood.

They begged for grants from City Council members and little by little spiffed things up and rebuilt the local park, known as the Hanna Homestead Park on East Lewis Street.

Parks often don’t need much. A big empty field with perhaps a backstop and a couple of basketball hoops is all you need to keep kids busy all day long. To tell the truth, even grass is optional.

At Hanna Homestead, though, there was drug dealing taking place on the street and inside the park, neighborhood association officials said. So the place was rebuilt.

Grass was planted throughout the park, including in the infield of a baseball diamond.

A nice playground was installed, along with a soft surface in case kids fell down.

A rusty chain-link fence that surrounded the park was removed and replaced with a nice black metal fence, made of steel. The fence offered only two or three entrances, a way of making it difficult for people to get out of the park quickly if they were up to no good.

Finally, a quarter-mile walking path was paved around the outskirts of the park.

In all, said Bonnie Andrews, president of the neighborhood association, the work took years to accomplish.

A few years ago someone did tear out one of the fence panels on the north side of the park, next to Lewis Street, but that was likely just because someone was trying to create an additional entrance to the park. The parks department repaired the damage.

Then, last week, Andrews and others woke up to a startling sight. Someone had gone around the park and removed seven of the sections of fence. Several other fence panels were bent.

Andrews said she contacted the parks department, which said it would notify the police department.

Andrews suspects that whoever took the panels is selling them for scrap. She said she contacted the major metal recyclers in the city, explaining what the fence panels look like, but no one reported anyone trying to scrap similar panels.

There are all kinds of scrap yards in the county, though, and contacting all of them gets time-consuming.

It all makes Andrews and others angry. Obviously there is someone in the area that just doesn’t care about the neighborhood.

It’s also troubling that someone could actually drive up to the park and tear down several of the 8-foot by 6-foot panels and drive away without anyone seeing anything or reporting anything.

Park officials said the sections of fence cost about $300 each, but they will almost certainly bring only a fraction of that if sold for scrap.

Andrews just hopes that if various scrap yards are aware of the type of fencing stolen from the park, they will be on the lookout in case a thief shows up trying to hock it.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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