Vandals destroy volunteers' efforts to make Friarwood Valley Gardens a pleasant green space for all
The chair of a Pontefract community organisation has hit out at the vandalism in Friarwood Valley Gardens.
Over the past eight years, the Friends of Friarwood Valley Gardens, with the support of the district council, has installed 25 new benches, six picnic tables, a children's playground, replanted the Sensory Garden and Rose Garden, restored the former aviary and converted it to a pinhole camera and reintroduced events to gardens.
Chair Dr Colin White said: “We are very fortunate in Pontefract to have the green oasis of the Valley Gardens which is renowned for its spectacular avenue of blossom trees.
“We have regular gardening and litter-picking sessions, involving our small group of volunteers. Unfortunately, quite often instead of gardening, we have to spend the time repairing damage and clearing up after fires, which is very discouraging.”
A particular problem recently has been wheelie bin fires. The culprits steal a wheelie bin from one of the neighbouring streets and set alight to it in the Valley Gardens. According to Dr White, this has happened on seven occasions in the past couple of months.
He added: “The melted plastic is difficult to clear away and causes permanent damage.
Broken glass, litter, damage to trees, plants and other items such as benches and information boards is also common.
He admits the difficulty of addressing this problem is because it generally happens late at night when the park is otherwise empty of visitors and although the police have increased the number of patrols, they cannot be there all the time.
Dr White said: “There is a new initiative, only just announced, of park wardens who will be in post by July, but as yet the detail is unclear, and I doubt if the new wardens will be around at the unsocial hours that antisocial behaviour is rife.”
The group of volunteers is, however, undaunted. The philosophy of the friends’ group is to continue to strive to make the Valley Gardens an attractive green space to visit for relaxation and enjoyment.
“We believe that by quickly repairing the damage from vandalism does make it less likely to happen,” added Dr White.
“A well looked after space shows that it matters to people and it's more likely to be respected.
“We have many active community groups in Pontefract and a number of these are focused on improving our public spaces and championing the town’s heritage.
“However, community volunteers cannot be a replacement for properly resourced public services, and the defunding of local government, the police and health services over past decades cannot be replaced by community action, no matter how enthusiastic and committed.”