HARWICH — Vandalism at parks and beaches is nothing new, but this year’s activity is worse than the occasional upturned bench or overturned trash can.
“I’ve been here for 14 years, and I’ve never seen it as bad as this,” Harwich Recreation Director Eric Beebe said.
Late at night on Aug. 12, vandals struck the bathhouse at Bank Street Beach, plugging sinks, ripping a urinal from the wall and apparently trying to start a fire.
“It’s just a shame. We put a lot of man hours and time to have those amenities on the beach. To have them screwed up like that, it’s discouraging,” Beebe said.
Thanks to the quick work by the town’s public works department, the rest room was up and running late the following day, he said. Crews cleaned up the debris and installed a spare urinal they had on hand, and the facilities were operational again, just in time for several very busy beach days. Vandalism like this inconveniences many, many people, Beebe noted.
“Especially at a beach like Bank Street. It’s so busy,” he said.
Previously, vandals damaged the little free library at Bank Street Beach, which was built by volunteers and filled with donated books for beachgoers to enjoy.
“The glass was broken on it a couple times,” Beebe said. Eventually, the vandals pulled all of the books from the library and burned them in a bonfire.
The food vendor under contract to serve visitors at Bank Street and Red River beaches also reported vandalism to their vintage food trailers.
“I guess they tried to get in and couldn’t get in, so they threw bricks at the windows,” Beebe said. The damage was repaired quickly and the vendor, Mobile Mixers, was operational the following day.
While there’s no exact dollar figure available for the damage, “it’s easily several thousand dollars,” he said.
Beebe has been in communication with the police department, which is carrying out additional patrols. But catching the vandals in the act is a tall order.
“If you’re not there at exactly the right time, it’s tough,” he said.
After vandals damaged a door on the new rest rooms at the Brooks Park tennis courts in Harwich Center, the parks department installed security cameras to test their effectiveness.
“We haven’t moved to the beaches yet, but now it’s looking like we might have to consider that,” he said. The cameras are not monitored in real time, but could provide police with evidence if the vandals return. They might also serve as a deterrent.
“We’re doing the best with the means we have,” Beebe said. “I’m hoping it’s just an anomaly this year.”
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call the Harwich Police Department at 508-430-7541.