Cyclists' parents become vigilantes

Parents set up own security to target vandals

GEOFF LONGLEY
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012
Terry McLeod
DEAN KOZANIC/FAIRFAX NZ

ON GUARD: Terry McLeod keeps an eye on the car park while young cyclists zip around Denton Oval.

Denton Oval
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
VICTIMS: These citizens return to their car, which was subject to a smash and grab.
Denton Oval
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
IN THE LOOP: Phil Podmore co-ordinates security at Denton Oval with a walkie-talkie.

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Denton Oval in Hornby has become a breeding ground for taggers, arsonists and petty thieves.

It has forced parents of young cyclists to become vigilantes at meetings.

Continuing vandalism at the cycle track is threatening the sport in Christchurch with parents and committee members forced to undertake their own security.

Several fires had been lit in recent weeks, a fence hacked with wire cutters and a grandstand and clubhouse covered in graffiti.

It has meant the club's weekly meetings on Wednesdays and Sundays have supporters patrolling the fence line and car park with walkie-talkies.

While the club's latest meeting on Sunday was getting under way another car was broken into during a fair at Denton Park which is beside the cycle track.

"We have up to a hundred kids racing at club days so the car park is full. If it weren't for our team of parents in their hi-viz vests, I'm not sure what we'd do," said Canterbury Track Cycling chairman Syd Martin.

"Parents should really be there to support their children but they are having to be distracted doing this other stuff. It's not really fair."

Martin said another fire had been lit during the 30 degrees Celsius nor-wester which struck the city last Wednesday.

"I was going to check the track's condition after the hot day and arrived to see flames coming across the park. The fire department was not far behind me."

Martin believed the mindless vandalism was a result of youngsters in the area having too much spare time on their hands.

"Two weeks ago the little buggers set fire to a tree on the fence line.

"Then last Friday I get a call saying they've been at it again, this time setting the ticket booth alight and attempting to do the same to the grandstand."

Martin said while there had been the occasional incident in the past it was nothing like the number of issues that had arisen this year.

The ageing facility was used at the 1974 Commonwealth Games but has had minimal maintenance in latter years. It is still owned by the Christchurch City Council.

The club is staging a major New Year carnival on January 4 and 5 where several Olympians, including Simon van Velthooven, Eddie Dawkins and Natasha Hansen are expected to attend.

"We are trying to stage a high profile event but it's embarrassing when all these incidents happen."

Grappling with vandals is not the only issue the track cycling fraternity is battling.

The grandstand and storage facilities were red-stickered by the council in March leaving nowhere to store the 60 bikes that CTC owns and loans out to development riders.

Three 6.1-metre containers have been placed on the side of the track by Smith's Crane and Construction who have generously offered extended payment terms while the club applies for funding.

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"So far we've been turned down by the council for any funding, even though this jeopardises the viability of the sport in Christchurch," Martin said.

- The Press

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