Vandals leave scars on AYSO program at Cheadle Park

Someone apparently doesn’t appreciate youth soccer very much.

American Youth Soccer Organization facilities at Cheadle Lake Park have been hit multiple times by would-be burglars and vandalism – this year.

Local AYSO official Duston Denver spoke to the Lebanon City Council on behalf of the organization at the Aug. 9 council meeting.

Denver he thanked the city staff and Council for their support but said he was there to ask for help.

“The shed was broken into for the sixth time, just this year,” Denver said. “People are dumping garbage in the parking lot and out in the field.”

Additionally, someone busted the lock off the control box for the water system and cut the nets in the field.

“There has been several thousand dollars worth of damage and property stolen from us,” Denver said.

AYSO is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization.

They faced similar problems in 2015, but the Lebanon Police Department and the city parks department helped alleviate the issues.

“There was a homeless camp out there, a wood structure building with energy-efficient windows back in the brush,” Denver said. “Once that went away, things cleared up.”

Things were great in 2016, he said, adding that he didn’t know what happened to change that in 2017.

One observation he made is that there are a lot of motor homes parked in the area of the fields for days.

Some people were hooking their motor homes to the shed to use the electricity, so AYSO shut the power off.

“We’re at our wits’ end with it,” Denver said. “I don’t know what’s going on this year, but we’re looking for solutions.”

Denver suggested putting up a gate at the entrance. Though that would be controlled by the city, AYSO could put money toward the gate’s installation.

Detective Ryan Padua set up some old inoperable cameras as a deterrent at the shed after he saw the some of the vandalism and theft reports, Denver said.

“In less than a week the cameras were busted off,” Denver said. “Maybe it might be possible to put (working) cameras up out there to help us keep an eye on the park.”

AYSO is it a critical point, Denver said, as soccer season is about to start.

City Manger Gary Marks said Jason Williams, maintenance operations director, is building a gate for the area.

Marks said the city crew is responding to some of the concerns Denver expressed.

Mayor Paul Aziz asked if the homeless camp was gone.

“I don’t think so,” Denver said. “The vegetation is not the height (it) was before. I think a lot of it is coming from transient traffic. The biggest issue is it’s out on the edge of town.”

It’s a great place to hide or park for the night, he said.

Denver has seen people doing drugs in their cars when he’s been out there in evenings, he said.

“Is there lighting out there?” Councilor Jason Bolen asked.

There is one light on the shed, Denver responded.

“I go by that almost daily,” said City Attorney Tre Kennedy. “The big difference I’ve seen over the last year or two are the old trailers.”

Kennedy said he didn’t know if that was the real cause of the increase but that is a difference he’s noticed.

Mayor Paul Aziz asked Denver if he thought the gate would help with that.

“I hope,” Denver said. “I think most of this is happening at night.”

Marks asked whether Denver could be available to meet with him and Williams at the soccer fields about the issue the following week.

“The city is being very supportive of our program and is working to help us secure the facility,” Denver said.

Denver met with city officials on Aug. 16. The gate is being built and should be going in soon, he said.

“Thousands of volunteer hours have been spent making a safe place for the kids in our community to play soccer,” Denver said. “It’s extremely discouraging when people vandalize the park and break into our shed. In 2017, the shed has been broken into six times, after not being broken into at all in 2016.”

Among the items destroyed is an electronic paint machine, a loss of $1,200, a tote with extra toilet paper, zip ties and goal parts and a large cooler that is used during tournaments, he said.

“A sprayer that we used to spray for weeds along with some hand tools to keep the park looking nice were taken,” Denver said.

“A bin full of extra uniforms and socks was taken. The net from one of our small goals was cut out, along with the net on the U10 goal out on the field.”

That is just a partial list of items that have been taken, he said.

“That doesn’t count the hours it takes a volunteer to clean up the mess because the person who broke in rummaged through everything, or fixing the damage done to the shed,” Denver said.

Anyone interested in helping to address the problems is asked to contact Duston Denver at [email protected] or Mark Baur at [email protected].