It's rather disappointing, maybe discouraging is a better word, to learn that the American flag that flies from the flagpole of the Iwo Jima memorial was stolen. I can remember the first time I saw the memorial and how stunned I was by its majesty. I really had to ask myself how did this end up in Fall River? I knew, of course, but I was in some disbelief that somehow, someway, other communities with deeper pocketbooks and maybe more influence didn't figure out someway to get this incredible monument installed in a more 'desirable' location.
Really I couldn't help but to think then that the monument, Bicentennial Park and the entire boardwalk was just an amazing development for Fall River. This development of our waterfront was something we could all be proud of. This was first class, something people from OTHER communities would want to come and see. Seeing the development of restaurants in the area just hint at what the future could hold. At the same time I couldn't help but wonder how long it would be before that element would come in and vandalize the monument or the boardwalk, For a long time the boardwalk and park stayed pretty clean and 'vandal' free. However, the theft of the flag highlights an issue that has been creeping up on us, that the park and boardwalk are being neglected and vandalized on a regular basis.
Over the last year or so I've noticed graffiti that isn't being cleaned up. I see broken balusters on the boardwalk railings, and broken lights (particularly in the area of the Iwo Jima memorial) that just aren't getting fixed. There is this whole broken window theory that basically states if things are not being maintained it's an invitation for vandalism and the more the vandalism goes unchecked the more it invites further vandalism. It makes sense that once you see this element taking hold you have to combat it pretty aggressively. Eventually fixing the balusters and cleaning graffiti are great but if you can't get ahead of the vandals its a losing effort.
The whole area from Heritage State Park to Bicentennial Park is still just an amazing benefit for our community. In warm weather I see all sorts of people utilizing and enjoying it but we need to fix the 'broken windows'. We need to clean up the graffiti, fix the boardwalk, install vandal proof lighting. There's some talk about cameras maybe we should consider it. Perhaps we could find some way to bring in park rangers (possibly a volunteer program?) to tour all our parks and keep an eye on things. The important things is, we need to do SOMETHING. It would be a terrible shame if we let same old elements creep in and rob us of something that truly has been a wonderful highlight for our city.