When you think of a park, what do you think of? Smashed Perspex, sharp bits of metal and ripped-up turf may not immediately spring to mind.
But one children’s football club, which works with youngsters from across Mansfield and Ashfield, has been forced to spend thousands of pounds in the last few months, to replace damage caused by vandals at Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park.
Paul Shelton, aged 46, chairman of Mansfield Boys FC, whose teams use the pitch, said theconstant hooliganism was making the park unsafe for people to use.
The club, which coaches about 130 children aged six to 14 each week, moved to Berry Hill Park from their former base in Kirkby in March and spent £2,500 on new equipment, including nets, a dugout and a fence.
Since then, they have spent a further £2,800 repairing damage caused by what Paul calls “bored kids”.
He said: “It makes me feel sick.
“It will spoil it for everybody else.”
“I just can’t understand the mentality of the people who are doing it.
“They are just spoiling it for everybody else.”
He said the first thing to be damaged was the fence.
The goal posts were the next thing to go, with the metal backstands dismantled and nets ripped up.
And after being replaced twice, the club have had to replace them with temporary ones.
Then the new dugout –which was designed to keep the children warm – was smashed.
Paul said: “We replaced the dugout for £300 and, within a week, it was smashed again. It’s just ridiculous.
“In fact, over the last three weeks, we have had problems almost every other day.
“And every time we have repaired things, they have been damaged again within hours.”
“We have got a secure container to put some of our equipment in, but you cannot fit a goal post of that size into it.
“It’s just not possible. We are having to police it ourselves and don’t know what else to do.”
Nottinghamshire Police have been called on several occasions, but Paul says he was told by officers they do not have enough resources to constantly patrol the park.
The owners of Berry Hill Park have supported the club, but cannot staff the premises 24 hours a day, meaning vandals are still able to get away with it.
Paul, who works for the club voluntarily, said they are trying to find a sponsorship to buy a big enough fence so that people cannot get on to the pitch.
He said: “If we have to go to the extremes of putting a big metal fence up in a lovely park like this, it will spoil it for everybody else. but it will have to be done.
“If not, the club might have to think about closing down, because there’s only so much we can do where funds are concerned.”
Nottinghamshire Police say that their neighbourhood policing team officers have advised the club to store the equipment in a safer place when it is not being used.
A force spokesman said: “In addition, the team has increased patrols at Berry Hill Park in response to these incidents and the football pitch area is very much part of the anti-social behaviour patrol plan.”
Anyone who has information about the damage which has been caused to the equipment at Berry Hill Park on Sunday is asked to telephone Nottinghamshire Police on 101, quoting incident number 586 of July 19.
Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
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