Volunteers have been left ‘heartbroken’ after arsonists destroyed play equipment at the new playground area of Armley Park, writes John Baron.
The playground had only been opened seven months ago – but an arson attack overnight late on Friday night saw a claiming frame destroyed along with much of the surrounding soft surfacing, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.
A swing has also been broken and a recently-planted tree broken down.
Volunteers from the Friends of Armley and Gotts Park group spent eight years campaigning and fundraising to improve the facilities.
The Friends posted on social media: “We are very sorry to bring such sad news. No words. We will be discussing with councillors and police what can be done about this in the coming days.
“We will also put together a crowdfunder should this be necessary to replace the equipment as soon as possible.”
Councillor Alice Smart (Lab Armley) condemned the incident. She said: “I am heartbroken to see the awful damage to the new playground at Armley Park. We have asked for the site to be cleared immediately so that it is safe for families to use.
“If anyone has any information about who is responsible for this damage, please contact the police.”
She added that the immediate plan was to get the area cleared and make it safe for children.
There was also condemnation of the incident on social media.
“Heartbreaking. So many people worked so hard for so many years to get the playground ungraded, then idiots come and deprive the kids and the community of a great resource in a matter of hours,” said one local resident.
Another added: “Terrible to see. We went here in the summer and it was great to see a new playground for the community in #Armley. Hope it’s looking better soon.”
“Awful. This took years and years to get built. All that dedication and effort,” said another.
The new park area replaced the former run-down play area earlier this year. It includes swings and a zip wire amongst a raft of new equipment. There are also plans for a second and third phase of the playground.
The volunteers formed the Friends group in 2016 with aims to make Armley Park and Gotts Park a more fun, interesting, playful, amenable, safe, active, inspiring, creative and community space for the people of Armley and surrounding areas.