OTTUMWA — A Wildwood Park restroom covered in graffiti has caught the public’s attention, but the city parks director and interim police chief said it’s nothing out of the norm.
Parks Director Gene Rathje said he noticed the graffiti in Wildwood Park on Friday when he was out surveying the parks. As visitors drive in, two walls of the restroom on the right now feature statements against President Barack Obama, profanity against the police and an acronym typically associated with a gang.
“I’m guessing it was done sometime last week because our parks guys are out there every day, and they would have noticed it,” Rathje said.
He said parks staff will get rid of the graffiti sometime this week when they have time.
“It’s an ongoing process because as soon as we paint over it, somebody comes by and does something else,” he said. “Graffiti has become so commonplace that it’s not that big of a deal anymore.”
Likely, the graffiti came from “kids running around with spray paint cans,” Rathje said. “Why they do it, I don’t know.”
The video cameras poised over downtown have helped deter graffiti in those blocks, Rathje said.
“But it’s really not practical to put any in the parks,” he said. “They’re so remote. But [the cameras] are helping at the skate park and the downtown restrooms. Out in the parks, there’s not much we can do about it.”
Rathje said if graffiti is found in a park or on City Hall, it’s the responsibility of his department to get rid of it.
“I’ve noticed it in Wildwood [Park], and we’ve had some in the restrooms at the Jimmy Jones Shelter and some at Foster Park,” Rathje said. “We either try to take it off with graffiti remover, and if that doesn’t work, we paint over it.”