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Park restroom vandals create big headache
The restroom facilities at Curt Penrice Skate Park have been the target of vandals. - photo by HIME ROMERO

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The toilet tug-o-war between vandals and the City of Ripon has reached a tipping point for one city official.

Public Works Director Ted Johnston doesn’t want to say the city is flushing resources when it comes to maintaining the restrooms at a few of its parks, but ...

“We’re constantly battling, constantly getting abused by graffiti and vandalism,” Johnston lamented. “We’re constantly on it. It’s difficult because you clean them up and the next day they’ve been trashed again.”

Graffiti and vandalism have long been an issue at Ripon’s Acacia Park and Curt Pernice Skate Park, widely regarded as one of the premier venues for ’boarders  in Northern California.

Johnston’s staff has had to replace the toilet seat at the skate park twice in the last nine months because it has been set on fire, he said.

Acacia Park, a half-acre plot near Veterans Park and the Community Center, has been a hot spot for graffiti artists because of its out-of-the-way location, Johnston added. “There are not a lot of eyes on it,” he said, “and vandals tend to hit it a little heavier.”

Though exhausted, Johnston and the public works department aren’t ready to bow to these bathroom bandits.

His staff has worked too hard to renovate and modernize the facilities to see them spoiled by those that lurk in the shadows

In the last nine months, since the issue of restroom conditions was brought before the city council by resident Renee Toledo, Johnston estimates the city has invested at least $2,500 to the renovation and maintenance of its lavatories – not including man hours.

Acacia Park received a facelift, which included: modified plumbing; replacing two toilets in the women’s restroom; replacing one toilet and one urinal in the men’s restroom; replacing damaged partitions; and refinishing the sinks, with a plan to replace those after the Almond Blossom Festival, which begins on Friday, Feb. 22.

The women’s restroom at Veterans was also renovated in that time frame.

All the work, Johnston said, has been handled in-house.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have the talented folks that we have,” Johnston said. “We don’t shy away from taking on the task. Our problem is the amount of work we have. It’s pretty consistent.”

Mayor Dean Uecker and Councilman Chuck Winn proposed using video surveillance to police the sites. That would be a costly and ineffective investment, Johnston said.

“We don’t have the money for that. Even if we had the money, you can’t put the cameras inside the bathrooms, so it’s very difficult,” he said. “We do have a camera at the skate park. Even though it takes care of the open area, it does us no good on the inside of the bathrooms.”

The city’s only deterrent is to keep watch with regular patrols by public works staff and volunteers. Johnston said the systems’ public restrooms are checked and thoroughly cleaned on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They’re also checked on Saturdays and Sundays.

Still, it hasn’t been enough to chase off vandals.

“It’s an ongoing issue,” Johnston said. “It would be nice to say ‘Oh, just lock them up.’  But they’re necessary. You need restrooms.”