By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
A vandal, or group of vandals, utilized bright blue spray paint to deface several areas of Oakwood Lake Township Park, located at 550 East Oakwood Road.
Much of the graffiti, which was applied to parking spaces, two park signs, two benches, two disc golf tee pads, a picnic table, and the Rossman Lake pier, contained anti-Semitic and homophobic messaging and created an estimated $5,000 worth of damage.
The exact time this crime was perpetrated is unclear, but Park Superintendent Jeff Kinasz believes it occurred on or around Saturday, December 12.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s substation was notified once the damage was discovered and is conducting an investigation.
While generally not to this degree, the Oxford Township Parks & Recreation Department is, unfortunately, not unfamiliar with vandalism at their facilities.
“We have people tearing up the grass and doing donuts in our parking lots,” Parks Director Ron Davis said. “Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we had someone run over one of our trees out at Seymour Lake Township Park. In the years past, we’ve had picnic tables busted, we’ve had legend markers busted. Fortunately, the community really utilizes the parks now, so, the vandalism has been down in years past.”
Some residents have advocated installing security cameras at the parks to help curb this type of activity. As Davis divulged, this idea has been tried and is not as simple as it sounds.
“We had cameras up; they were either stolen or the clarity of the pictures wasn’t good — you had to put them up so high where people couldn’t see them or get to them, they’re so hard to identify,” he said. “We tried to use them one time for vandalism, but you couldn’t identify the actual vehicle license plate number or the individuals.
“When they’re (the cameras) 25, 30 feet up in a tree, they’re not as good as everybody thinks they are. We’ve tried everything, and the best thing that is going to help curtail this is people taking an active role like they are in our parks. If you’re out at one of our parks and see something that doesn’t look right, call the sheriff, that’s what they’re there for.
“Lieutenant (Scott) Patterson and his staff are always out in our parks and they are huge allies of ours, just big proponents. We’re blessed to have, not just a strong community that supports the parks, but our local sheriff’s department, as well.”
Oxford Township’s parks are one of the area’s greatest features, assets other communities would love to have.
It was another local establishment, Birmingham Sealcoat on Metamora Road, who stepped up and provided the cleanup efforts, using a power washer to remove the spray paint over the course of hours on Friday, December 18.
Birmingham Sealcoat’s ties to the community run deeper than simply conducting their business here, the company’s two owners, brothers Ryan and Mark Austin, are Oxford High School products, graduating in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
“They saw the story the township put on their Facebook page about the vandalism and they just reached out to us,” Davis, who has been with the department since 1995, shared.
“We’ve had an outpouring of volunteers – different companies, private individuals, residents – who want to come out and help, so, it just speaks volumes of the community as a whole.”
As of the afternoon of Monday, December 21, the suspect, or suspects, in this case have not been apprehended. The sheriff’s department has this on their front burner and have developed some promising leads, sources said.
Based on the monetary value of the damage caused, the suspect, or suspects, in this case are facing a felony charge of malicious destruction of property. In the state of Michigan, this is punishable by up to five years imprisonment or a fine of not more than $10,000 or three times the amount of destruction, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.
Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to contact the Oakland County Sheriff’s substation at 248-969-3077.