JONESBORO, Ark. – A park for individuals with disabilities was smeared with mud by what park officials think was a female juvenile delinquent sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.
Of all the places in Jonesboro for someone to vandalize, City Parks and Recreation Director Wixson Huffstetler could not understand why someone would do it to a place which brought joy to so many who needed it most. “It’s ridiculous that they’re doing anything to any park but especially the Miracle League,” Huffstetler said. “It’s neighborhood kids that walk over here – local kids that live around here. They don’t understand the value of what this means and what this does for our community.”
The Miracle League Park in Jonesboro is a regional complex for those with physical disabilities. The facility also has a playground with 28 different pieces of equipment, each one being handicap accessible. The purpose of the park is to remove barriers which keep children and adults with disabilities from experiencing the opportunity and joy of playing outside.
Huffstetler said he had spoken to Mayor Harold Perrin Tuesday morning and he, too, was “very disappointed.”
There was no hard-damage to any equipment but crews will spend most of the day power-washing the park to clean up the mud, Huffstetler said.
Camelia Ballard is in charge of the Miracle League program. She spoke to NEA Report on Tuesday morning and described the mess. She said mud was smeared all over the Homer statue. Light poles, brick walls, trash cans, playground equipment and more had mud smeared all over.
“There was mud tracks, from shoes, leading into the gate and of course, there was hand-prints on the wall,” Ballard said.
Despite what has been an incredibly dry Fall thus far, Jonesboro experienced a downpour on Monday. That rain filled a ditch that runs along the side of the drive going into Southside Softball Complex, Ballard said. It appeared to her this was the direction from where the footprints came from.
“The footprints started there on that side by the concession stand and went all the way around the concession stand into the front gate,” Ballard said.
The perpetrator has little hope of evading consequences for this act, both Ballard and Huffstetler believed. Ballard said the security cameras point directly at the gate and across the playground, showing where the perp entered from.
“It’s just sad there’s so many people who have no respect for things that aren’t theirs,” – Camelia Ballard
The cameras were said to have captured clear visuals of the teen suspect, described Huffstetler. He said photos and video would be circulated at schools today to attempt to locate the responsible juvenile.
Although the damage was superficial and the belief is that the responsible party will be located, there was still disappointment from those aware of what had happened. One of the Miracle League coaches is Katie Calaway. As she described, the grievance was more emotionally hurtful to the area than anything.
“This is not the first time we have seen our Miracle League Field vandalized,” Calaway said. “It is truly heartbreaking to know an individual or several individuals chose to destroy a place that brings joy to special needs children and adults. I hope this doesn’t delay our ball games we have scheduled for Saturday because the players would be so disappointed.”
Stan Morris Reporting | NEA Report
Photos courtesy Wixson Huffstetler.