Dorsey's Search Village combating vandalism

June 01, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Vandalism in the open space and woods of Dorsey's Search Village has been more destructive this year than any other in memory, said the village's manager.

Since winter released its icy grip, wooden trash cans and boardwalk bridges over wetlands have been burned or broken, debris from drinking parties has been strewn, shrubs planted to stem erosion have been ripped from the ground, and signs and a community building have been spray-painted, said Dorsey's Search Village Manager Anne Darrin and Village Board member Ria Malloy.

"I don't know if parents realize their kids are doing this kind of thing," said Ms. Darrin. "I can only assume it's got to be some of our kids. I can't believe it's all kids from other areas coming into our village.

"I think parents have buried their heads in the sand when it comes to these type of activities. People don't realize it's their tax money used to clean these things up."

Columbia Councilwoman Evelyn A. Richardson of Dorsey's Search described the vandalism at an April 28 council meeting as a continuing problem reaching "really serious proportions."

Five days later, county firefighters extinguished a blaze that destroyed an abandoned house in the woods off Gray Rock Drive in the Dorsey Hall area. Battalion Chief Donald Howell, of the county's service, said the cause of the fire was suspicious. and that the state fire marshal's office is investigating.

Dorsey's Search Village isn't alone in fighting mischief in the woods and at Columbia Association (CA) facilities. Association officials say they are always on the lookout for vandalism, which occurs sporadically throughout Columbia, affecting the city's tot lots, pathways, neighborhood centers and swimming facilities.

"We shouldn't be trying to scare the community to think every night vandals descend from the hills and vandalize everything. It is sporadic," said Chick Rhodehamel, assistant director of the nonprofit association's Open Space Management division. "There's not a real predictability or pattern I can see."

Mr. Rhodehamel said his division has not compiled figures for replacement, repair and labor costs of vandalism, but has started to keep track. Work crews must repair the destruction of vandals weekly, he said.

The association did compile costs for a rash of vandalism during one April 1993 weekend in Wilde Lake Village and Town Center, however. The bill came to $810 to replace four burned wooden trash cans and seven missing or burned plastic trash cans, remove graffiti and paint a Wilde Lake pump house building and remove soap from the Town Center fountain.

"Vandalism is always expensive and drains funds that could otherwise be used for meeting community needs," CA President Padraic Kennedy wrote to the Columbia Council.

The association recently has been working with the Howard County Police Department to stem an increasing vandalism problem -- graffiti on underpasses along CA pathways, Mr. Rhodehamel said.

"Maintenance crews are doing a good job trying to keep up, but it's constant," said Sarah Uphouse, Long Reach Village manager, about graffiti and broken lights in underpasses in the village.

Police Chief James Robey and Pfc. Bruce Lohr discussed how to handle acts of vandalism at a recent Columbia Council meeting. They urged that residents call police about anything suspicious.

Dorsey's Search officials are working to make residents more aware and responsive.

Ms. Malloy advocates involving teen-agers in searching for ways to reduce vandalism, clean up damages and develop more productive activities that the village could help sponsor.

"It's disheartening to see destruction on the pathways," said Ms. Malloy, who has encountered discarded beer cans and cardboard beer cases on her weekend pathway runs. "So many people derive a lot of benefit and enjoyment from the open space. It's too bad to see it trashed."

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