By Kevin O’Rourke
The fire is long extinguished and the damaged equipment has been removed from the playground at the Cedar Valley tot lot, but the neighborhood is still reeling from the suspicious fire which light the night on Aug. 13.
“It is shocking this would happen here because outside of some graffiti, we've never experienced vandalism on this scale as long as I've been here,” said Lisa Sponaugle, a fourteen-year resident of the neighborhood. “Many of the neighborhood kids have fond memories of that playground as the first one they played at. The fact that this has happened in our community deeply saddens all of us in the neighborhood. It seems such a heartless action.”
Sponaugle has a 13-year-old daughter that grew up playing in the park. ”The loss of that playground is hard for our community because preschoolers from the daycare nearby play there everyday, and after school, younger elementary kids play as their parents sit on the nearby benches to socialize.”
She said one of the factors leading to the vandalism was the trees around the tot lot. “The tall trees surrounding the playground unfortunately serve as an effective screen to hide all kinds of problems after dark,” said Sponaugle. “There is definitely not enough light in this park and lately, groups of people that are probably not part of the neighborhood have been gathering there when it starts to get dark. There is no police presence in our neighborhood at all and there clearly should be regular patrols.”
The park is a private park owned and maintained by the Seneca Crossing Home Owners Association, according to Lisa Ringler of Silver Spring-based Chambers Management, Inc., the HOA’s management company. She said as the damaged equipment was removed earlier this week and the HOA currently in the process of accepting bids on replacing the equipment. She said replacement equipment would not be installed in the park until at least late fall. “The HOA wants to be sure to purchase durable, quality equipment and won't make a rush decision,” said Ringer.
Ringer pointed out that there are at three other tot lots in the community for residents, including one less than 50-feet from the site of the fire which are all undamaged and open for use.
The fire is still under investigation by MCFRS. Beth Anne Nesselt of the public information office of the MCFRS said that while the investigation is still on-going there was no obvious signs of sources of ignition at the site of the fire. Fire Investigators are asking anyone with information or who might have seen something to call the department’s Arson Tipline at 240-777-2263.
Photo Credit: Lisa Sponaugle