Vandals torch Cowichan Valley playground, slice up artificial turf at soccer field

Community members are disappointed and confused after two weekend vandalism incidents at the Sherman Road soccer fields

Community members are disappointed and confused after two weekend vandalism incidents at the Sherman Road soccer fields.

A section of the playground was set on fire and burned to the ground in the early hours of Sunday morning, and someone took a knife to the new artificial soccer turf around the same time.

“It’s frustrating — that’s probably the best word,” North Cowichan director of parks and recreation Ernie Mansueti said. “These are uncommon incidents, but we’ve seen a few of them lately. I think we live in a very good community; you don’t see things like this as much as in other communities that I deal with.”

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are investigating the incidents but aren’t sure at this point if they are related.

“It is unknown if both acts of vandalism are connected, but we are looking into that possibility due to the closeness in proximity of the two locations,” Cpl. Krista Hobday said. “We are looking into leads and questioning those we believe may have some information regarding those who may be involved in the vandalism.”

According to South End fire hall deputy chief Brad Coleman, the first truck on the scene had the flames extinguished almost immediately, but it was too late to save the structure.

“The plastic was burning pretty good when we got there,” he said. “It was fully going for sure.”

Fire chief Scott Henning will conduct an investigation, Coleman said, and several eyewitness reports have come in from residents.

The playground is one of the most popular in North Cowichan, Mansueti said. The original structure was funded by the Duncan Kinsmen Club, and when a new one had to be built, the municipality sought funding from the Rick Hansen Foundation and made the playground partially wheelchair accessible. Mansueti said a lot of daycares in the area use it, as well as siblings of children playing soccer nearby.

“It’s probably the busiest playground in North Cowichan during the soccer season,” he said.

The damage to the artificial turf consisted of a chunk being cut out of the surface, although Mansueti said it can be sewn back together again. The turf was installed late last year.

It is North Cowichan’s intention to rebuild the playground and fix the field, Mansueti confirmed. A contractor will have to be brought in to fix the turf, and rebuilding the playground is expected to cost in the neighbourhood of $25,000 to $30,000.

As unfortunate as it is that the playground and turf were damaged, the incidents have confirmed how much the community values them.

“If there’s a positive, it’s the phone calls and people that express how important these facilities are,” Mansueti said.