O’Neil Park vandalized 5 times since revamp project

Although it has been defaced five times in less than half a year, Glendale and Councilmember Jamie Aldama are committed to keeping O’Neil Park a mainstay in Glendale. (City of Glendale/Submitted)

Back in November, members of the Glendale community rallied around a revitalization project, one that would take O’Neil Park to the next level.

A park that had stood in Glendale for over 60 years, the city partnered up with major organizations around the Valley, such as Fiesta Bowl Charities to revamp it with two new playgrounds, a basketball court and a new football field.

“This is the first project of its kind for the city of Glendale, and we are so excited it’s here,” Glendale Councilmember and then-Vice Mayor Jamie Aldama said at the time the park had been opened to the public.

Finally completed after months of planning, the community took to its new park and loved every second of it.

But the park has since hit its first obstacles. In December, the park was vandalized for the first time. Since then, there have been four other instances leading to thousands of dollars in damages to O’Neil Park.

“It really frustrates me that vandals will choose to do that,” Aldama said following the incident. “But on the other end, I’m not giving up. Vandals will not think about our pride in the projects that we have going on, and that means we’re adding. We’re going to keep going.”

The damages caused to the park are extensive. The bathrooms and playground were spray-painted on, the glass basketball backboard was shattered and the court surface had been burned and, most severely, a car was driven across the football field.

“In my opinion, it’s like graffiti,” Aldama said. “When you have a brand-new building, it’s like a new canvas, right? (The vandals are) like, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to go tag that.’ That’s what these vandals do.

“I don’t think this is targeted to O’Neil or to the Ocotillo District or Glendale; what it’s targeting is fresh canvas, new buildings, new backboards, destroy it because it’s new. … I believe it’s vandals that just see an opportunity to destroy what is new and then destroy the spirits of our community.”

What the vandals don’t know is that these acts are stacking up. If the restoration of fixing a vandalized property is over $1,000, rather than a smaller punishment, the charges become criminal.

“Disappointing to say the least,” Glendale Police Chief Randy Stewart said. “It is the senseless criminal damage, I think, that’s even more disappointing.

Aldama and Stewart are employing a creed of “never give up” as a way to help manage and overcome the vandals. They are asking that everyone be vigilant and have an eye out for suspicious behaviors and to report any actions of such to the Glendale Police Department.

Enlisting the help of the community will help ensure that this once charitable donation for Glendale can stay in use for the future generations.

“The ultimate goal for me has been pretty consistent — have a diverse amenity driven park,” Aldama said. “A park that many people can use. … And so I am looking for a park that has diverse resources for our community.

“I feel like we are getting there, and that’s my ultimate goal. It’s a park that’s been upgraded by its amenities. Its building has a new facade for turning the page from 1965 to 2023. And that part should provide resources to our community. And that’s been my goal.”