“All about Joy” playground is the only inclusive playground in San Luis Obispo County designed for children with disabilities. Earlier this week, parts of the playground were vandalized.
Parents for Joy is the organization that fundraised for the playground to be built. Sarah Sullivan, the co-founder of the Parents for Joy, says this isn't the first time the playground has been vandalized.
Earlier this week, Sullivan was informed of vandalism that occurred inside the playground. According to Sullivan, parts of the fencing were broken, food was smeared on the floor, and writing was found on playground equipment.
Sullivan says one of the biggest safety concerns is the broken fence.
“We put the fencing in to try and help children who are on the autism spectrum. They run off. It’s called eloping. You can scream at them, tell them to stop, but they don’t hear you, they just go," said Sullivan.
Another issue is that food is being left behind, causing concern among parents.
“Food is a huge issue, not only because it’s messy and it’s getting all over the ground, but kids with food allergies," said Sullivan. "They should have a safe place to play. We built them this place, but if you’re bringing your cookies and pizza, it’s not safe for them.”
Parents for Joy is in the process of building an inclusive splash pad that would be located next to the playground, but parents say vandalism like this is a constant obstacle.
“The vandalism at the playground takes time and energy as well as money away from future projects like shade and the splash pad that is slated to be built when the funds are raised," said Jennifer Jones.
The city of Atascadero is aware of the situation. In a statement to KSBY, city officials said, “This recent issue at Joy playground was not reported to the Atascadero Police Department. There was a small amount of graffiti where chalk was used and a couple of bar rods missing from the fencing. Public Works was notified so it could be repaired. Once it is reported, it will be investigated further and PD will work from there to hold those accountable.”
There are cameras around the playground and city officials said, "Whenever we have any type of vandalism that occurs, we take the time to review the area and the video footage.”
The Atascadero Police Department does rounds around Colony Park and the playground to make sure it is safe.