(SALEM) - Riley's Place, a park built by the Salem community in memory of a little boy who never got the chance to play there, is facing attacks by vandals and parents are becoming increasingly uncomfortable taking their children there.
The park is located inside DePauw Park, is just a few blocks west of the Salem Square.
Riley's Place was named after Riley Jean Tomlinson, a local toddler who accidentally drowned in a swimming pool.
The park was built in 2001 and contains two and three story wooden castles and other structures for children's play along with swings, slides, and similar playground equipment.
Foul language, use of tobacco products, drugs and alcohol and other acts by teens are causing alarm. When the adults address the issue with the culprits they are being threatened.
Jennifer Tomlinson, who spearheaded the effort for the park in memory of her son, Riley, has had issues at the park.
"This all makes me incredibly, incredibly sad. Last time I went there a kid, about 10, was smoking. I asked him how old he was and he told me it was none of my business. I told him that my hands helped build that place and it was my business. He called me a name and threw down the cigarette. I made him pick it up and dispose of it. ... Definitely not what we envisioned when we built it."
The park was constructed the weekend following one of the darkest day's in the country's history; September 11, 2001. Many said it gave them something positive to focus on following the terrorist attack; they were creating something positive and fun for local children to enjoy for many years to come.
Police Chief Troy Merry is addressing parents' concerns and says the park is patrolled regularly, both night and day. The park is also by city dispatch by camera.
"When a dispatcher sees anything suspicious an officer responds, " Merry added. "We need residents to call police immediately when they see things, so we can take care of the problem."
Merry says the park shelterhouse was vandalized last Tuesday and Parks and Recreation crews spent most of the day Wednesday cleaning graffiti and repainting. Police are making extra patrols in the area.
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