ROCK FALLS – Vandals have made it much more difficult this year to prepare for an annual event honoring veterans.
As in year’s past, the Rock Falls American Legion Post 902 planned to have its Veterans Days ceremony and rifle salute at the city’s Veterans Memorial Park at Fifth Avenue and West Fifth Street.
The park isn’t used much, so when Tourism Director Janell Loos and Building Inspector Mark Searing decided to check on it ahead of the veterans tribute they were surprised by what they found.
“The lights and doors were broken, the electrical plugs weren’t working, profanity was spray-painted on the back wall of the stage,” Loos said. “It was very sad to see at a park that was established to recognize the sacrifices of our veterans.”
Searing said the cap was broken off the retaining wall and some of the memorial stones were knocked over. Equipment was missing at the bandshell and the seating was in total disarray.
“A lot of this was probably done over time, and it looks like the kind of things that kids probably did,” Searing said.
Loos reported back to Mayor Bill Wescott, and plans were made to expedite the work so the park would be in shape for Veterans Day.
Contractors put up the new heavy-duty lights Monday that should help to deter future acts of vandalism. They will stay on at night when nothing is scheduled at the park.
Cleanup is going well, thanks largely to the efforts of Pastor Brian Tribley and his group of volunteers from Firehouse of God Ministries.
“We put out the call to Brian, and as always, he stepped up,” Searing said. “They cleaned up the park and bandshell, and did a lot of painting.”
Monuments have been cleaned, stones replaced, and graffiti painted over.
Rock Falls Tourism has taken over management of the park, aiming to stop the vandalism and make better use of the property.
Veterans Memorial Park, once known as Triangle Park, was Coloma Township Park District’s first park. The city donated the land shortly after the park district was established in 1925, but technically still owns the property.
Tourism wants to spruce up the park and then actively promote it for events.
“The park has been underutilized since the city has owned it, and that’s something we want to change,” Loos said.
The police department plans to engage the neighborhood in cleaning up the problems at the park.
“There has been so much vandalism here lately and such a total lack of respect that we’re going to knock on the doors of neighbors and ask for their help,” Police Chief Tammy Nelson said.
Nelson said residents can give police a big edge in these types of situations.
“We’re usually in a car when we patrol and the neighbors have an advantage in that they can see things from their home that we can’t,” Nelson said.
Nelson said residents can help police anonymously by either calling 815-622-1140, the department’s nonemergency number, or messaging the Rock Falls Police Department’s Facebook page.
The Rock Falls American Legion Post 902 will present the Veterans Day Ceremony and Rifle Salute at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Fifth Street in Rock Falls. The event will last about an hour.