BRADENTON -- The city of Bradenton had to shut down one of the Riverwalk's most popular attractions after it was thought vandals ripped up a section of the splash pad this week. But when police reviewed the Riverwalk surveillance system late Thursday, they discovered the act was not malicious -- a group of 3- to 5-year-olds is responsible for the damage.
"The city was going to shut down the splash pad soon anyway because there are spots that are coming up," said Bradenton Police Department Capt. William Fowler. "There is nothing criminal about this. Some really small children found a loose spot and started pulling on it, and then a couple more came over to help them out."
Gary Kinder, public works grounds and landscaping superintendent, said the video shows one small boy pulling on the loose spot. He then goes to tell a small girl, who
tells two more small children and they all begin to pull on the same spot, eventually ripping up about a 2-foot swath of the pad.
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The splash pad will remain closed until May 13 because the contractor is based in Arizona and can't get to Bradenton until around May 11, Kinder said.
"They'll get here and do the repairs and then it will need to cure for a day before we can turn the water back on," he explained. "I talked to the contractor and the concern was that if we kept the water on, then the water would get underneath the pad and cause more damage, so it was best to shut it down."
Unfortunately, the incident caused the shutdown right before Saturday's Pickin' Picnic 2016. The splash pad is a cherished feature of Riverwalk for families and children, Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham said Friday. She knows the estimated 3,000 people expected to attend will be disappointed the splash pad will be unavailable.
"We were really shocked and surprised when we heard about this," said Isham. "I know there will be some disappointed families, but am sure the city will do its best to get it fixed soon. Unfortunately, it won't be for this event, but we have a lot going on for people to do."
Kinder said the video shows the children tearing at the splash pad for about a minute before various parents intervened. Once the parents realized what was going on, they immediately stopped the children.
"I take my 5-year-old and my wife to the splash pad all the time," said Fowler. "A child that age can get away from you pretty quick, so there is nothing criminal here and we won't be holding the parents responsible. It's just some really young kids who found one of several areas where the splash pad is starting to come up and each one pulled a piece out before the parents were able to get to them."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.