BY CHRIS AADLAND
MISSION, Ore. — Tribal housing officials are searching for ways to discourage vandalism to projects meant to increase quality of life after a new basketball court was intentionally damaged just weeks after it was installed.
On Oct. 9, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Housing Department staff discovered damage to the recently completed basketball court installation in between Walla Walla Court and Cayuse Loop, said Marcus Luke, the department’s director.
It appeared that someone drove a vehicle onto the court, leaving behind tire tracks over much of the court, which is made of a tiled playing surface over a new concrete pad. The vandals then damaged the court in other ways – gouging holes in the playing surface, ripping up and breaking some tiles, and ruining the alignment or mangling the tiles in other spots.
The vandalism, and other reported incidents in recent weeks, like graffiti at a bus stop, has left Luke frustrated as the housing department prepares to upgrade and replace other recreational equipment on the reservation over the next year.
“[I’m] not sure why people do this, as the tribe spends thousands to make it a nicer area and then this?” Luke said in an email.
So now, he’s turning to the public for help to identify those responsible and to dissuade future vandals.
Anyone with information about the basketball court disfigurement – or anybody who might witness a future act of vandalism or have information about an incident – is asked to immediately contact tribal police, Luke said.
To encourage tipsters to come forward with information about the basketball court vandalism and help discourage future incidents, Luke would like to see – and has suggested that leadership work to make it happen — the tribe offer cash rewards for anybody who can identify those responsible or provide information that leads to an arrest.
The damaged court has since been repaired, Luke said.
The Housing Department has spent about $200,000 recently to upgrade recreational equipment, like the basketball court, and have plans to replace more basketball courts and playground equipment, Luke said earlier this month.
He said the department is currently replacing old playground equipment at Walla Walla Court and early next year will be adding a playground and half basketball court at the Lucky 7 manufactured home park.
Hopefully the public appeal to share information with police, and a potential reward incentive, will deter future intentional destruction of projects, like playgrounds and basketball courts, Luke said.
If not, he said any perpetrators will increasingly be caught on camera, as the Housing Department has plans to install more security cameras on the reservation and near housing or department projects, in addition to cameras that had been recently installed in housing developments like around Walla Walla Court.