By PENNY FLETCHER
Monday, March 10, passed like any other early spring day in Sun City Center. With the temperature around 75 degrees, the tennis and volleyball courts and softball field between Community Hall and the lake just south of it were filled with residents enjoying their favorite sports.
Walking along a narrow path behind those areas, residents like Debra Vance watched the dogs play in the fence-enclosed areas of the well-maintained Dog Park.
The park is separated into two areas by chain-link fence, with one side for large dogs and one for small dogs. Each side has play areas and baby pools of heavy plastic for those dogs who like to take a quick dip.
Sometime after the last guests left on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, the fences were badly damaged, gates torn down and sod torn up.
Damage to the park was initially reported as around $1,500 by David Floyd of the Sun City Center Community Association Board. But by Saturday, Sun City Center’s Community Resource Deputy Jason Castillo said the estimate had risen to $2,000.
“At first, the machinery was reported stolen, too,” Castillo said. “But it was found at the scene of the damage. That’s a $10,000 machine.”
Sun City Center’s maintenance supervisor, Kelly Emerson, said the machine that was used to do the damage is what is referred to as a “cherry picker,” with a front bucket that can be raised to service such things as power lines.
Neither the Association Board nor the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office can definitely say what happened to cause the park’s closure.
“It looks like maybe kids took a joyride, with spring break and all,” Emerson said in a telephone interview March 14.
“I just hope everything is fixed quickly so we can get back there,” said Vance, who is treasurer of the Sun City Center Dog Owners Group. “My little guy really misses it. Wonders why we aren’t going to his favorite place.”
Castillo said he was following up some leads, “but we can’t discuss an on-going investigation,” he said.
The park was back in operation by Friday, March 14, much to the delight of numerous dogs and their humans.