Anti-Semitic graffiti removed from Mellor Park equipment

Parks commission hears updates on restrooms, aquatic facility

Michael Lewis, city parks and green space manager, scrubs and paints over graffiti on a piece of playground equipment in Mellor Park. Anti-Semitic graffiti was reported in the park last month. City crews cleaned the offensive messages from the Mellor Park pavilion in January. A member of the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission discovered more anti-Semitic graffiti atop a slide on Monday. (Contributed)
Michael Lewis, city parks and green space manager, scrubs and paints over graffiti on a piece of playground equipment in Mellor Park. Anti-Semitic graffiti was reported in the park last month. City crews cleaned the offensive messages from the Mellor Park pavilion in January. A member of the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission discovered more anti-Semitic graffiti atop a slide on Monday. (Contributed)

Members of the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission are continuing to advance efforts to improve city parks by keeping close tabs on ongoing projects and in the meantime, the EPPC and city crews have had to handle an ugly bit of business that recently occurred in a city park.

During a status report on parks projects on Jan. 24, commissioners asked Michael Lewis, city parks and green space manager, if anti-Semitic graffiti that was reported in Mellor Park had been cleaned.

Lewis said offensive messages that were aimed at Jewish people had been spray-painted and marked on picnic tables, columns and the concrete padding in the pavilion last month.

"We covered all that," Lewis said.

City crews scrubbed the concrete, matched paint to cover the columns and repainted the picnic tables Wildcat Purple.

The work took place in mid-January when Commissioner Karen Hicks said a visitor to Mellor Park notified her about the graffiti and she contacted Lewis.

While following up on the work Monday, Hicks discovered more anti-Semitic words, some misspelled, atop a slide in the park.

Lewis returned to Mellor Park with more scrub brushes and paint to tend to the matter, saying city crews missed the graffiti that was on the top surface of the playground equipment when they removed the derogatory messages from the pavilion last month.

The pavilion and slide are on opposite ends of the park. They both sit on the east side of Mellor Park, with the pavilion on the north end and the slide on end.

"Yeah, we missed this. We didn't see it. We'll have it cleaned up by the end of the day," said Lewis.

Lewis and Hicks said the graffiti on the slide is old. The messages could not be seen from the ground.

EPPC members said such behavior is not tolerated in public parks, noting that the goal of the long-running master improvement plan -- which began in the fall of 2018 when commissioners toured and assessed of several city parks -- is to make city parks safe and inviting for families with children.

Other projects

Commissioners inquired about the status of other outstanding projects that are included phase one of the master plan, which is being funded by the El Dorado Works tax, a one-cent, sales tax initiative that is geared toward economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.

Since 2020, the EPPC has spearheaded several parks projects, including:

• Paving the Leslie Ann Darden Memorial Trail, which encircles Lions Club Municipal Golf Course, the Union County Fairgrounds and El Dorado School District soccer fields.

• Building two new basketball courts in Lions Club Park, which was previously located at the entrance of the municipal golf course and was shifted eastward for safety.

A new picnic table was also purchased for Lions Club Park.

• Installing five, park-style, charcoal BBQ grills for Neel, Mattocks, Mellor, Mosby and Old City parks.

• Purchasing new equipment -- a powered lawn sweeper, used fairway mower and two utility carts -- for LCMGC.

Robert Edmonds, director of public works for the city of El Dorado, said the equipment will also be used to help maintain other city parks.

One of the outstanding projects in phase one of the master plan is the installation of a public restroom in city parks.

The EPPC previously agreed to start with one restroom, which is under construction near the basketball courts in Lions Club Park.

Commissioners have said the restroom will serve as a prototype to gauge how well the situation works out, with the hopes of adding public restrooms to other city parks in the future.

In the past, vandals frequently targeted public restrooms that were formerly in Mellor Park.

LCMGC managers Danny Carelock and Teri McKissick previously reported similar problems with a public restroom that serves the north side of the golf course and Leslie Ann Darden trail.

The city will maintain the new restroom, which will come with timed locks and plenty of exterior lights. The EPPC and city officials have also discussed mounting surveillance cameras, possibly game or trail cameras, for the new restroom.

Adding restrooms to city parks was a suggestion that parks and playgrounds commissioners heard repeatedly while soliciting public feedback to draft the improvement plan.

Work on the restroom in Lions Club Park has been ongoing since the fall of 2021 and has faced several delays, some of which were due to bottlenecks in the country's supply chain.

On Jan. 24, Lewis told commissioners that contractor Diversified Construction and Design had come up with a plan to hook up water and wastewater implements for the restroom but after further examination of the matter, Diversified "had to come up with a different plan."

Commissioner Karen Hicks said three new water fountains were also purchased as a part of the master plan.

Two of the fountains are to be installed for the Leslie Ann Darden trail Lions Club Park basketball courts and one for the pet enclosure in Mitchell Park.

Lewis and Hicks said the water fountains are believed to be in the possession contractor Glenn Mechanical, who will install the fountains, and Glenn is expected to install the fountains soon.

Commissioners are also awaiting word on the status of advertising bids for new fencing for the basketball courts in Lions Club Park, the dog enclosure in Mitchell Park and the tennis courts in Mellor Park.

Edmonds said the work is expected to be bid this month.

Aquatics facility

EPPC members also agreed to reach out to Michael Rogers, of MR Designs, a local architectural and design firm, who has been tasked with drafting a plan for a new public aquatic facility/water feature in the city -- the next phase of the park improvement plan.

The facility would replace the Mattocks Park swimming pool.

The pool, which opened in 1953 and was the city's only public swimming pool, and the adjacent pool house were razed last March after having been closed in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and their poor condition, respectively.

Age, deterioration, declining attendance and public safety risks also factored into the EPPC's decision to demolish the pool and pool house.

The pool had not undergone any major renovations or repairs since it opened 70 years ago, Edmonds told state health inspectors when they toured the facility in 2021.

Inspectors cited several upgrades, including Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, that would have been needed for the pool, pool house and pump, in order to reopen the Mattocks Park pool.

EPPC members said they had difficulty finding a vendor who was interested in taking on the job.

Discussions have been ongoing about building another aquatic facility/water feature for the community -- which may or may not be built in Mattocks Park.

Parks and playgrounds commissioners are looking to once again tap into El Dorado Works tax revenues to fund the project.

In 2021, MR Designs, who holds a professional services contract with the city, drafted conceptual designs for a public aquatic facility/water feature and is working with the EPPC to refine and hammer out the details.

Rogers met with the EPPC in November and provided a preliminary outline of how the firm plans to proceed with developing the project. He said the conceptual designs from 2021 will be used as a basis.

Convening a meeting with stakeholders in the community is the first step, Rogers said then, adding that meeting "needs to happen right after the first of January."

He told commissioners that the El Dorado City Council and the El Dorado Works Board, who administers the El Dorado Works tax, should be aware that efforts are under way to develop the project.

"I just don't want that conversation to stop," Hicks said on Jan. 24.

Commissioner Alexis Alexander the EPPC is working with Rogers to schedule the meeting.

Public meetings allowing ideas and suggestions from the community will also be a part of the development process.

Upcoming Events