SPRING HILL — Hernando County Parks and Recreation workers will be spending much of the week completing repairs and cleanup after vandals broke into Stewy's Skate Park over the weekend and spray-painted graffiti throughout the facility.
Parks maintenance supervisor Roy Link said Tuesday that the vandals entered the fenced skate park, at Pioneer Park on Pinehurst Drive, sometime Friday night or Saturday morning and wrote on walls, sidewalks and most of the skateboard ramps. Link estimated the damage at $800.
The skate park is closed while the repairs and cleanup continue.
"We're probably going to have to paint about 95 percent of the ramps," Link said. "They are pretty much a mess."
The incident remains under investigation by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
Link said that there has been a marked increase in vandalism since the county took over sole operation of the park in February. In March, park workers discovered that someone had broken into the concession stand, stolen items from inside and caused damage to the restroom. Damage from that incident was estimated at $1,000.
Once operated by a nonprofit entity that ran the concession stand and was responsible for opening and closing the skate park each day, the facility is now run by the county on a "skate at your own risk" basis. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Opened in 2003, the park was named in memory of Stewy Abramowicz, a 12-year-old Spring Hill skateboard enthusiast who in 2001 was struck and killed by a car while he was riding his scooter. For several years, Abramowicz's mother, Amber Costa, who spearheaded the effort to build the park, operated the concession stand through an agreement with the county.
After Costa's departure last year, the county contemplated closing the park because of budget concerns. But a citizen-run group called Save Stewy's Skate Park stepped in and formalized a concession and maintenance agreement with the county.
When the group pulled out in January after defaulting on its insurance, the county once again tried, but failed, to find anyone interested in taking over the operation.
Russ Wetherington, chief procurement officer for the county, said Tuesday that county Parks and Recreation officials intend to begin a new search in a couple of weeks to find a qualified person or business to reopen the concession stand.
"It would be nice to find someone who is really willing to put their heart into it," Wetherington said.
Meanwhile, Link said he expects to have Stewy's Skate Park reopened by the end of the week.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.