Volunteers raised close to $30,000 to renovate the park.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It was just a few months ago when nearly 80 volunteers gave up their day to build a new playground at Porter Park.
And this week, those volunteers discovered a few teenagers vandalized the park.
When the snow melted earlier this week, volunteers who headed the Christopher Porter Memorial Park Fund and efforts to rebuild the park in honor of their late friend discovered three brand-new picnic tables had been flipped over and broken into pieces.
"We're not exactly sure who it was," said Ian Craighead. "They smashed all of our brand new picnic tables into pieces."
Christopher R. Porter was well known in the community for his philanthropy and voluntarily maintaining the park. After he died in December of 2015, a committee formed to rename the park in his honor and fundraise for improvements.
"Chris did a lot of volunteer work in this town. We figured it would be a nice thing to do," Craighead said.
And the group started fundraising that spring. So far, $27,000 was raised and new fencing, a sign recognizing Porter, benches, tables, and in the fall the new playground was installed with the help of Denny Condron, who excavated the site for them at no cost.
"Every year we are going to plan a fundraising event," Craighead said. "Every year we are going to try to do something nice there."
In the spring, the group will be planning out the 2018 event and depending on how much they raise, they'll do another project. They had already been looking to add more picnic tables, but now they have to replace what was broken.
"In the summertime people were using them every day. .. it's kind of disappointing," Craighead said. "We raised almost $30,000 to do something nice over there and in one night somebody destroyed them. It's disheartening."
Craighead said it was the night of Jan. 16 when the weather had broken and temperatures were nearly 60 degrees when a neighbor saw some teenagers in the park but didn't think much of it. The next day it snowed and buried the damaged tables.
The park was renamed after Christopher Porter in 2016.
Early the following week, Craighead received a call from Porter's wife saying somebody had stolen the tables. But as the snow melted, the committee found the pieces scattered throughout the park. The committee members gathered people together and cleaned up much of the debris to make sure no screws or nails were in places a child could get hurt, but still, some of it remains.
"We're going to get some more tables and hope it doesn't happen again," Craighead said. "We are in the process of installing security cameras at our cost."
All of the improvements made to the park were from private donations and no city funds were used.
Porter Park isn't the only city park to have newly installed equipment vandalized. In 2015 the city used federal funds to renovated Ray Crow Park and a month later someone, or someones, spray painted many parts of it and lit a fire in the plastic slide.
On Highland Avenue, those behind the renovations to Porter Park won't be deterred. In the spring, they'll get the park ready for another summer and plan out how to make it even better.
If anyone wants to donate to help the park improvements, checks can be sent to PortSmitts, the restaurant Porter owned with his wife Paula, at 370 Pecks Road in care of the Christopher Memorial Park Fund. Or, keep on the lookout for the group's 2018 fundraising event.
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