Dependable Erection

Monday, May 21, 2007

Graffiti - not the good kind

According to a post on the Duke Park list serv, this gang related graffiti on the Duke Park handball court was reported to Durham One-Call on Saturday afternoon. At 6:30 Monday night, it was still around.

Which actually raises the question - how long is the handball court going to remain in the park? It's another long lasting example of Durham Parks and Recreation's inability to hear what its customers are saying. During the charette process following the 1996 bond issue, when Parks and Rec met with Duke Park and other interested city residents to decide how to renovate the park, there was virtually no constituency for the handball court. Majority interest favored converting it to tennis. But Parks and Rec got it into their heads that there were enough tennis courts in town, and Duke Park deserved something better.

Well, of course, Parks and Rec blew through all of the budgeted funds for the park renovation on a swell new playground, and no additional funds are anywhere in the budget for a future redo of the handball court.

So i guess we'll just continue to use maintenance funds cleaning up the inevitable graffiti and other messes.

Let's hope new Parks and Rec Director Rhonda Parker has some better ideas about how her department can serve its constituents.

UPDATE: The graffiti had been removed by 5pm on Tuesday, 5/22.



  • If the place has been largely ignored by all for more than a decade, it can't be a great surprise to see someone finding a purpose in it.

    And how far off can the painters be? After all, there's a trace of beauty in these pictures, certainly more than in a bare, stained cinderblock wall...

    It's not my local park, of course. (My corner of Durham is short on "local" anything.) I'm just sayin': paint's cheap enough, and no doubt there are plenty of hands available. Isn't this whole city overrun with artists? Why not counter hostile expression with something a little warmer?

    I've walked by Michael Brown's murals in Chapel Hill for years, and very seldom have I seen one defaced. Some dignity and evidence (concrete evidence?) of local interest might provide greater protection against vandalism than that fence ever could.

    By Blogger Richard, at 8:39 PM  

  • Ummm, no. Gang graffiti, even ifit's painted by a bunch of wannabe middle schoolers, doesn't belong in my neighborhood park.

    The purpose of the fence is not to keep anybody out, but to keep stray balls in.

    I can only assume you are unfamiliar with Duke Park. It's beautiful enough without any murals, just the hawks, owls and other assorted wildlife in the ravine, and the dozens of little kids on the playground on a sunny afternoon. Given the location of the handball court, it's not a place that anybody would ever pass by on their way from one place to another. It's tucked in a wooded corner hard up against I-85. It could be a useful addition to the city's inventory of recreational opportunities, if anybody in the city could get up off their ass and decide to make it happen.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 10:08 PM  

  • I want to make sure it's clear that I wasn't saying gang graffiti "belongs" in anyone's neighborhood park. Maybe responding to graffiti with art is too simplistic to work; I don't know.

    All I know is what I read in your post--which states that Local Authorities have no money to fix the problem & no visible interest in trying. My assumption (admittedly cynical) is that you're correct in predicting a long while of "maintenance funds cleaning up the inevitable graffiti and other messes". Over time, no doubt the place itself will become more and more of an eyesore, until everyone at Parks & Rec and everyone who visits the park gets a blinding headache just thinking about it. Eventually something really awful might even happen there.

    What first got me thinking was your question: how long is the handball court going to remain in the park? So far, I can only interpret your answer as "until Authorities believe they must either do something NOW or lose their jobs".

    Me, I hate waiting for a crisis to act (that's why I agree with you on climate change); much worse is appearing to root for catastrophe (that's why Senate Democrats can't pass a veto-proof timetable).

    I suggested art as a temporary, simple, positive demonstration of community attention. If your neighbors believe the most productive action to solve the problem in your local park is to generate the maximum amount of frustration in the neighborhood & fear in the Authorities...well, who am I to argue with that? Just some long-winded guy on the Internet.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:33 PM  

  • Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    I'm actually a big supporter of spontaneous public art, as i try to show with my traffic circle posts. Hell, i'm the official blogger for the Beaver Queen Pageant, which is about the most beautiful, spontaneous, non-sanctioned, performance art you're ever likely to see in this life. Duke Parkers rarely pass up an opportunity to turn a blank canvas into a community art project.

    The problem with the handball court is that the city had an opportunity, it had the funding and the community support, following the 1996 bond issue, to get rid of the handball court and replace it with something that would actually, you know, serve the recreational needs of the community.

    Instead, DP&R pissed away over $50K of what turned out to be a much more limited budget than they initially presented on a high priced consultant from the San Francisco Bay Area, who designed an expensive, probably award winning park renovation that would have made the cover of Parks and Rec International magazine, but never had a ghost of a chance of actually being built. Now they're stuck (and we are as well) with an unused anachronism that, thankfully, has until now mostly escaped the notice of Durham's vandal community.

    We pay a lot of money in taxes to the city of Durham. This was an instance where it would not have been too hard or too costly to do the right thing.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 6:29 PM  

  • It's so funny that I ran across your post today because we were just there at Duke Park this morning, and I actually took pictures of the graffiti as well (haven't uploaded them yet). They must have cleaned it up this afternoon.

    Looking forward to reading your blog. Found it from Bull City Rising.

    By Anonymous Suze, at 11:25 PM  

  • I look forward to your comments here.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 7:52 AM  

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