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Gregory Park vandals prompt installation of security cameras

Visitors to Gregory Park in north Brainerd have been doing more than enjoying the park. Last year, vandals cost more than $3,000 in damage. "We've had an increase in vandalism the past few years," said Tony Sailer, Brainerd Parks and Recreation d...

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Brainerd Parks and Recreation hope newly installed security cameras in Gregory Park will deter vandalism and potential damage to tennis court renovations set this spring. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls

Visitors to Gregory Park in north Brainerd have been doing more than enjoying the park.

Last year, vandals cost more than $3,000 in damage.

"We've had an increase in vandalism the past few years," said Tony Sailer, Brainerd Parks and Recreation director. "Last summer someone tried to burn down the warming house, which was more than $2,000 in repairs. There is constant damage to the bandstand."

This spring someone ripped all out outlets out of the bandstand and tried to kick in the warming hour doors. Sailer said the city has replaced sinks vandals broke out.

"And skateboarders are breaking city ordinance by using the tennis courts which causes considerable damage," Sailer said.

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The city is planning to invest in the tennis courts this spring, perhaps as early as May. The investment will fix drainage problems where water pooled on the two northernmost courts. The costs of resurfacing and rebuilding the two tennis courts comes with a $56,270 price tag.

In addition to fixing the cracked and, in some areas, missing pavement, the new courts will include markings to create short courts or a youth course design.

The U.S. Tennis Association's (USTA) QuickStart tennis courts scale down the game, allowing children to become successful as they learn the sport. The design is popular with adults who are new to the sport or older players who can no longer cover the entire full court as easily.

The renovated tennis courts project is aimed at helping people be active and get fit across the generations.

With the investment in the courts and the recent vandalism, the city installed the security cameras.

The cameras monitor the warming house, band stand, both tennis courts, center court and fountain. The two cameras and equipment that goes with them along with installation cost totaled $5,276.50. They were purchased through Midwest Security in Brainerd.

Donations included $1,188.25 from the Brainerd Lakes Women of Today.

"We also put in $22 from the coins we collected from the fountain," Sailer said.

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The remainder of the cost comes from the city's park dedication fund.

"All of this is due to repeated vandalism to the park facilities," Sailer said, noting with the costs the city is paying for repairs, the cameras should quickly pay for themselves.

Gregory Park covers 11 acres with two playgrounds, a skating rink and warming house, five tennis courts, including three with lights, a basketball court, fountain, gazebo, and plenty of space for impromptu games of football or catch.

In fundraising for the new courts, the city received $5,000 from the USTA Northern, which covers Minnesota. Another $9,000 is pledged from the USTA when the courts are done. Tax-deductible donations have also been sought to offset the city's costs in restoring and rebuilding the courts. This winter, donations of nearly $8,000 were collected with more coming in. There are also plans in the works to provide tennis programs this season.

With the community support, Sailer said his hope is the security cameras will help protect the park and the assets people have come to enjoy as spring arrives in earnest. He urged people to call the Brainerd Police Department if they see vandals in the park or see skateboarders on the tennis courts, which can cause serious damage to the surface.

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .

Related Topics: GREGORY PARKBRAINERDTENNIS
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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