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Vandalism again visiting area park

Seminole's community policing officer is urging residents to unite to keep Blossom Lake Park clean and safe.

By MONIQUE FIELDS

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 12, 2000


SEMINOLE -- It may not seem like much -- a couple of carvings in a table, a few sprays of paint on cement. But to Deputy Sherri Roberts, Seminole's community policing officer, it could be the beginning of a vandalism problem at Blossom Lake Park.

About two weeks ago, vandals, thought by Roberts to be teens, carved their initials and hearts into a new park table and spray-painted a concrete slab underneath a table. The incident, though mischievous, alarmed Roberts, who is trying to revitalize two neighborhood associations in the area.

"They are fixing up the park, and I don't want to see it trashed," she said.

Roberts has asked the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for more patrols of Blossom Lake Park. She is also asking residents of Blossom Lake and Gem Village to attend a crime prevention meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Orange Grove Elementary School.

"If we could get the community involved, they would also become the eyes and ears of the park," she said.

Seminole is spending $385,000 to redevelop the park. A contractor is installing a fitness trail, playground equipment, a new basketball court, an area for pickup softball and football games, and picnic gazebos with charcoal grills. Plans also call for adding dozens of shade trees, palms and flowering plants, as well as parking.

Blossom Lake Park is on the Pinellas Trail near 62nd Terrace N in the Blossom Lake neighborhood, east of 113th Street. The renovations are scheduled to be completed in September.

Some residents were surprised by the report of vandalism.

"I hate to see that," said Marlene Howard, 50. "If we can get a neighborhood watch going again, I would absolutely love that."

Years ago, others saw vandalism in the area. Vera Kowalke, 80, remembered an earlier scene at Orange Blossom Park.

"Kids broke the swings, and they broke the tables and chairs," said Kowalke, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 15 years. "They just ruined it completely. It will be a hangout for kids again."

Benny Lewis, the head plant operator at Orange Grove Elementary School, has had similar run-ins with young people. He often returns to the school on Mondays to find tires on the roof, school benches leaned against the building and a broken water hose faucet.

"They act like this is their picnic area," he said.

Residents say they will do their part to help keep the park and neighborhood safe for children and families.

"I work at night," said George Martinez, a group leader for the YMCA at Orange Grove who lives near the elementary school. "I'm always looking out."

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