VANDALS are targeting a new £2.3m riverside park in South Tyneside – just three weeks after it opened to the public.
Harton Quays Park has been billed as a crown jewel at the heart of a £100m masterplan to regenerate South Shields.
Incorporating a water feature, a dramatic retaining wall, promenade and grassed amphitheatre, it has proved a big hit with the public since it opened on Wednesday, September 18.
But it has also become a favourite haunt for skateboarders and BMX bike riders.
Already, stone seating has been left badly scuffed and broken by youngsters hurtling around the idlylic area, as well as being defaced.
Plants have also been uprooted by the bikers.
Today, concerned senior borough councillors pledged to nip the activity in the bud and said that community wardens would be drafted in to clamp down on the problem.
Coun John Anglin, chairman of South Tyneside Council’s Riverside Community Area Forum, said: “It is just so, so disappointing that some of the kids in this borough don’t understand what we are trying to do here.
“Seats have been chipped and defaced, and patrols will now be used to catch the culprits.
“This is a beautiful park which offers the first view of South Shields from the river.
“We are carrying out a £100m regeneration of the town centre, and we can’t allow a few mindless youths to spoil it. We need to nip this in the bud.
“This is a beautiful park – not a playground for skateboarders and cyclists,”
Coun Michael Clare, the council’s lead member for regeneration and economy, said he was “deeply saddened” at the vandalism.
He said: “Harton Quays Park is a fantastic riverside feature and will be a Tyneside landmark for years to come.
“It’s also a key part of our 365 vision, which links the South Shields riverside, town centre and foreshore areas.
“We are delighted the park has been so well received by residents and visitors, but there have been some isolated incidents of damage to seating and planting since it opened last month.
“We are deeply saddened by this and have taken immediate steps to put this right.
“The council has also arranged for its community wardens to patrol the area and is looking at all options to mitigate against the risk of any unacceptable behaviour in future.
“The park has been designed to a very high standard, featuring open landscaped areas with clear sightlines and a bright spacious promenade offering striking views of the river.
“It will also provide a setting for new cafés, bars and restaurants.
“We are confident that increased activity in this area will help to deter the small minority of people from spoiling the park for the enjoyment of others.”