St. Johns County launches program to combat vandalism at public parks
St. Johns County launching a new program to combat vandalism at county parks.

St. Johns County
There have been nearly 250 incidents of vandalism at county parks between 2023 and 2024.

With about $75,000 in damage to public parks due to vandalism in the past year, St. Johns County is launching a new program designed to ward off damage to public property.

The “Enjoy, Don’t Destroy” program will involve specific videos and multimedia messaging programs to advise St. Johns County residents to protect and help in the upkeep of their public parks. There will be a formal launch event of the program April 5 at Julington Creek Plantation Park.

St. Johns County Parks and Recreation officials say the Enjoy, Don’t Destroy program is a serious effort because the cost of vandalism at parks in the Northeast Florida county has been significant.

In 2023, there were 191 cases of vandalism at St. Johns County parks, and the parks and rec work orders to repair that damage amounted to $63,403.43. In 2024, there have already amounted to 46 work orders for vandalism repair at parks, accounting for $10,948.92 in repairs this year.

In addition to work orders for county employees to repair damage caused by vandals, law enforcement also gets involved, increasing the cost to taxpayers. There were more than 30 law enforcement reports filed in 2023 alone in response to vandalism incidents.

“St. Johns County residents visit our parks for a positive experience, and they expect high-quality facilities,” Parks and Recreation Director Ryan Kane said in a prepared news release.

“Nothing detracts more from the positive experience than to arrive at a site and find vandalism and destruction. Parkgoers should be able to expect great times in the parks, and they can assist St. Johns County Parks and Recreation by reporting any damages to the department and any incidents they witness to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.”

The public awareness campaign aimed at protecting parks from vandalism will be disseminated on the St. Johns County Connect website and mobile application launched this year along with features on the county’s social media accounts on multiple platforms.

St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick said his office is counting on vigilance from county residents to drive down the incidents of vandalism at parks.

“The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is committed to partnering with Parks and Recreation staff on this campaign to deter vandalism at our county parks,” Hardwick said. “I encourage our citizens to report acts of vandalism and help us preserve the park experience for our families and future generations.”

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected].


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