It started with a church youth group looking for a good community service project and turned into a solid and determined movement to take a stand against the graffiti that is quickly marring the beauty of Oakdale’s parks.
Wednesday, Nov. 2 the TAG (Team-up Against Graffiti) volunteers, along with other citizens, armed themselves with clipboards, paint and cleaning supplies, then broke off into teams to try and make a dent in the pervasive spread of scrawled obscenities and gang graffiti taking over the city parks.
The four teams managed to hit 16 city parks, cleaning and painting, as well as noting each instance of broken equipment, graffiti and other types of vandalism before the sun sank into the horizon.
Mike Hancock, TAG volunteer, will present the clean up day’s findings to the Parks and Recreation Commission at their next regularly scheduled meeting in December.
Hancock admitted he was shocked by the sheer amount of graffiti out there.
“There are a lot of issues with the playground equipment,” he said. “There were parts missing and faulty equipment. At one park, a slide was missing. It’s just overwhelming.”
While he was surprised to see very little gang graffiti — which is what he was prepared to see a lot of — he was dismayed to see how much random obscene scribbling there was at the various locations.
“Basically, we saw a lot of teenage kids marking things up. It was virtually everywhere,” Hancock said.
The graffiti ranged from harmless to the obscene but one thing remained the same — the sheer amount.
“Every single park, with the exception of Wood Park and the Vineyards, had some kind of tagging,” he said.
The problem was so widespread that the team ran out of paint.
The three most damaged parks were Dorada, Gilbert, and Cottleswoods.
“The restrooms were especially bad,” he said. “The volunteers were shocked by what they saw. I’m uncomfortable with the amount of graffiti we found.”
Although the Public Works Department has someone in charge of checking the city parks for damage and graffiti, Hancock believes the short-staffed city department is likely overwhelmed by the graffiti and vandalism running rampant in the city.
“We thought this was a good opportunity to help Public Works,” Hancock said. “I know the Parks and Recreation Commission is very interested in our results.”
The TAG volunteer program is getting ready to tackle another big project on Saturday, Nov. 19 when they converge on Sierra Railroad to help address the growing vandalism problem facing the railroad cars. The Sierra Railroad will provide the paint and the TAG volunteers will provide the elbow grease but there’s always room for more volunteers.
Anyone interested in helping the TAG volunteers is urged to call Mike Hancock at 209-324-0917 for further details.