Deep, muddy ruts scar the normally pristine green ball fields at Lakewood’s Fort Steilacoom Park.
Lakewood Police believe someone in a vehicle illegally entered the park sometime after it closed Tuesday and traversed the length of the fields, causing major damage. The park is closed from 6 p.m.-6 a.m.
The worst destruction is in the field area between two sets of ball fields off Dresden Lane Southwest, the park’s main drag.
“The damage is pretty extensive in terms of how deep the tire tracks go,” said city spokesman Brent Champaco. “It’s been pureed.”
The park will remain open while the city assesses and repairs the damage. The city hopes to restore the fields in time for baseball season, which starts in April.
The city doesn’t have an estimate yet about how much it will cost to restore the churned-up ground and reseed the damaged areas.
“It is so wet out there they can’t even examine it properly,” Champaco said.
There are no immediate plans to add security patrols, fences or cameras at the 340-acre park, he said.
Based on tire tracks imprinted on the soggy fields, police believe someone gained access to the park by driving through a ditch and over an embankment near 87th Avenue Southwest across from 92nd Street Southwest. The driver then moved through the park’s prairie fields and jumped the curb onto the ball fields.
Once on the sport fields, which are closed during the wet winter months, the driver did several “donuts,” driving in tight circles and leaving deep ruts. The person drove the length of the grass area, tearing up the outfields of the park’s four ball fields, and continued to the soccer fields where more turf was destroyed on the lower plateau.
After returning to the baseball fields, the car exited the park by jumping the curb the same way it entered, police believe.
“People are really upset about this. It isn’t just a case where someone threw some graffiti up somewhere,” Champaco said. “The community is taking this one to heart.”
The damaged area is not the area where city officials plan to allow 3,000 to 4,000 cars to park during the U.S. Open golf championship in June.