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IF Parks Dept: Cameras don’t stop vandals at equal-access park

Damaged and unsafe equipment, graffiti everywhere; the only Idaho Falls playground for kids of all abilities has seen better days.

On Thursday night, one Idaho Falls parent told our station something needs to be done at the Equal Access Playground, so every kid has an equal chance to play.

Our station learned in addition to broken equipment, vandals have defaced much of the park. Signs say the property is under video surveillance, but the Idaho Falls Parks & Recreation Department on Thursday said, that isn’t exactly true.

“It was so important when it was first here,” said Idaho Falls dad Marty Vizcarra. “Now, 6 years later, it’s not even the same playground anymore.”

Vizcarra is a dad on a mission.

“It reduces the amount of stuff available to someone with disabilities,” he said.

Vizcarra took reporter Caleb James through the park on Thursday.

He said, over the years, he’s watched the only equal access playground in Idaho Falls slowly fall apart.

“It doesn’t affect me personally, but it is sad to see you know?” he said.

The playground’s spiral slide is cracked and wobbling.

Latches on the park’s full support swings for kids with special needs are broken.

“If they’re sitting here and it’s swinging back and forth they can fall out,” said Vizcarra. “That’s a really big safety hazard.”

Vizcarra said he first noticed the broken latches in August. In April, he filed a complaint with the Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Department.

“Some of the major safety concerns I don’t think have actually been addressed,” he said.

Our station called Parks and Recreation, and equipment operator Tim Arehart met me at the park. I asked about the broken equipment.

“The slide that’s broken or cracked — for me to replace that slide it would take up my whole budget for everything,” said Arehart.

He said the budget simply won’t allow for repairs to be made at the park.

“Unfortunately, times are tight,” he said.

For Vizcarra, broken equipment isn’t the only concern. Vandals have covered the park in graffiti.

“Stuff like this, you can’t fix,” said Vizcarra. “You just have to paint over it. So this nice mural is ruined.”

Signs at the park say it’s under video surveillance.

Only a single camera on a pole faces the playground.

“It’s not actually a continuous feed, it takes pictures on a motion sensor,” said Arehart.

Arehart said the camera only snaps still shots when it detects motion. It’s virtually useless after dark.

When there’s a lot of activity at the park, Arehart said the camera’s memory fills up, and stops recording.

There’s only about an hour and half of space. The camera system doesn’t even feed back to the department’s office. A Parks & Recreation employee has to come out here and download the images off the camera.

Arehart said the lackluster security system and the budget crunch go hand-in hand.

Both Arehart and Vizcarra feel caught between a rock and hard place. Trying to keep the park pristine, they say, is an uphill battle.

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