Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'This goes beyond vandalism'

Dad discovers tree cut to fall on swing set in city park

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Jason Booth sits next to what remains of a tree in Fraser's Grove Park that he noticed had been cut in such a way that it might fall on a popular swing set.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jason Booth sits next to what remains of a tree in Fraser's Grove Park that he noticed had been cut in such a way that it might fall on a popular swing set. Photo Store

There's something sinister going on at Fraser's Grove Park.

On Saturday, Jason Booth was with his two-year-old son at the park near the corner of Kildonan Drive and Rossmere Crescent when he noticed a tree that had been intentionally cut on both sides. The large ash, just three metres from the swing set his son was playing on, could have fallen over at any minute.

At first, Booth figured the city was planning to cut down the tree -- until he took a closer look.

The cuts were at a 45-degree angle and about two metres from the ground. The cuts were even and looked to be done with a chainsaw.

Speaking with the Free Press, Booth described the discovery as something beyond a simple act of vandalism.

'...An act which could have potentially crippled or killed a child this weekend has to be taken very seriously' -- East Kildonan resident Jason Booth

"I'm not a lumberjack or anything, but it looked like it was cut specifically to fall on the swing set. I got a chill from that," said the East Kildonan resident. "This goes beyond vandalism, this is a calculated way to hurt people."

In fact, some area residents say they woke up to the nasty, buzzing sound of a chainsaw -- coming from the direction of the park -- around 3 a.m. on Saturday.

"My neighbour went to look out the window, but it was too dark to see anyone," said Rob Parisien, who lives near the park. He shuddered at the thought of what might have happened if the tree had toppled over.

"It's scary because there are city workers who work in the park every day," he said.

After his discovery, Booth warned two families near the swing set, and two 11-year-old girls playing close by, to stay clear of the dangerous tree.

Booth also called Winnipeg police, who taped off the area.

Contacted Sunday, police said no suspects have been identified in the incident.

The tree was removed by the City of Winnipeg's forestry division on Saturday night, and staff also cleaned up the area Monday afternoon.

"Vandalism is vandalism, but an act which could have potentially crippled or killed a child this weekend has to be taken very seriously, especially when this appears to be the latest act in an escalating series of crimes," said Booth.

Within the past year, the park's public washroom had been torched, causing the city to implement overnight surveillance. And last summer, bolt-cutters were used to cut down almost every swing within the park.

"It's a perfect place for vandalism because the park is so dark," said Parisien, who uses the park on a daily basis. "I think more lighting would make a huge difference."

A few years ago, Parisien wrote a letter to North Kildonan city councillor Jeff Browaty addressing his concern about the park's lack of lighting.

Browaty isn't convinced that's the right way to go, but he shares residents' concerns.

"Park experts don't recommend lights, because it draws people to the park at night," he said. "It's a quiet neighbourhood and it's unusual the park is being targeted so heavily.

"We're going to have to look into our options, which may include extra lighting."

elizabeth.fraser@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 6:24 AM CDT: replaces photo

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