HARRISVILLE -- The city is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of vandals who have repeatedly set fire to the restrooms at Independence and Memorial parks.
Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Fife was on a drive with his wife Saturday night and spotted trouble at Independence Park.
"There was a lot black smoke billowing out of the restroom. I called 911 and reported the fire," he said.
North View Fire Department responded and determined an arsonist was at work.
The city council originally wanted to leave park bathrooms unlocked until Oct. 1 but decided to close the bathrooms early.
"We have no choice but to lock the parks up for the remainder of the season," said Mayor Richard Hendrix.
In the past five months, toilet paper has been set on fire once in Memorial Park restrooms, and toilet paper, paper towels and towel racks have been burned twice in Independence Park.
Both of the parks' restrooms have been flooded when vandals stuffed paper towels and toilet paper into toilets and sinks.
City Administrator Bill Morris said he believes the vandalism can all be linked to the same person or group of people.
The city is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the arsonists.
"There have been lots of volunteers and many others who have put a lot of time and effort into making wonderful parks in this community," Hendrix said. "It's sad to have an arsonist try to destroy the work of so many good people."
The most recent fire caused significant damage.
"It melted the hand-towel dispenser right off the wall, destroyed lighting fixtures and blackened the whole inside of the restroom. The fixtures are a total loss," said Public Works Director Gene Bingham.
Vandalism in general has increased in the city this summer, he said.
"We even had someone start a fire in the construction zone at the new splash pad. Such people are just senseless," Bingham said.
"Toilets have been broken, facilities flooded, graffiti painted all over, among other things."
Police Lt. Keith Wheelwright said he is disgusted by the attacks.
"These fires were deliberate and destructive. It is a shameful act," he said.
Anyone who has information that may help this investigation is asked to call Harrisville police at 801-782-4100, extension 1001.