Vandals trash Copake park and what they did stinks

COPAKE—“Horrific” is the word town officials used to describe vandalism done at the town’s Copake Memorial Park over the 4th of July holiday weekend.

The two occurrences, what was done to remedy them and whether similar future acts can be prevented were discussed at the July 9 Town Board meeting.

The vandalism took place in the park bathrooms, which are located in a free-standing structure, between the park community activity building and the playground.

Councilperson Kelly Miller-Simmons, liaison to the Copake Parks and Recreation Commission, told The Columbia Paper by phone this week that she learned of the situation in a call at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, July 5 from Ron Piper, who is responsible for booking events at the park building and cleaning there.

Some time earlier, one or more miscreants entered the bathrooms, plugged up the toilets with toilet paper, defecated in the toilets and in various places on the floor and then flooded the place.

Mr. Piper had to use a power washer to blast clean the bathrooms, which were then locked for two days to allow them dry out. Copake Supervisor Jeff Nayer said at the meeting that Mr. Piper “did not complain about it, he just took care of it.”

Then on Monday morning, July 6, the director of the town’s summer recreation program arrived at the park pavilion to find that sometime the previous night someone had spray painted in red on the concrete pavilion floor a six-foot by three-foot penis.

The summer program is for youngsters, ages 5 to 12, weekdays at the park.

The park maintenance crew, headed by Mike Bradway, used gray paint to cover it up and had the pavilion ready for use by an exercise class that evening.

Ms. Miller-Simmons said she did not immediately file a formal police report until town officials can review footage from the park’s surveillance cameras to see what was recorded. She did mention the incidents to the resident sheriff’s deputy.

She said camp counselors have also had to pick up beer bottles strewn around the park from people partying there the night before.

The park is open daily from dawn to dusk and while people should not be there after dark, there is no way to prevent them from walking in from anywhere around the park perimeter. She said many people treat the park like their own backyard. Numerous private residences, Camp Waubeeka and the Taconic Shores housing development border the park. “It could have been anybody,” she said.

At the meeting, Mr. Nayer rejected the idea of keeping the bathrooms locked when there is not a special event going on at the park, noting the possibility that parents might be there playing with a child who had to use the bathroom. “What will the parent do, say: We have to drive home? No, they have to be open,” he said.

Similar incidents happen once or twice a year at the park, the supervisor said, adding his thanks to the staff, who work hard to keep the park a clean and pleasant place. Ms. Miller-Simmons called the incidents “horrific and disgusting,” noting, “It is a shame that someone unnecessarily makes more work for them.”

In other business at the Town Board meeting, Supervisor Nayer asked Town Attorney Ken Dow to draft a local law to address the newspaper publication that is being thrown around town. The matter came up last month in reference to Shop & Find, published by Columbia-Greene Media.

“You can’t stop them from distributing it,” Mr. Dow said. Nor he said, can the town base the law on the content of the publication or that it annoys people. But the First Amendment “doesn’t allow that it can be tossed helter-skelter on the ground in hopes someone will pick it up,” he said, adding, laws pertaining “to littering and aesthetics have been upheld. I think you can prevent that kind of thing.”

He said the law may require that the publication be secured in some way, such as to a doorknob. Mr. Dow said he would draft a law in time for the next meeting and, if satisfactory, the board can move forward with a public hearing in September.

Councilperson Jeanne Mettler said she would support such a law that has a good purpose and sounds like it is needed provided Mr. Dow “does the requisite research, feels solid about it and it’s not just buying us a lawsuit, though realistically that’s where we may be headed.”

Mr. Nayer said, “I want this done and done fast.”

The Town Board meets next Saturday, August 8 at 9 a.m.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@ columbiapaper.com.

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