By YVONNE McLEAN
EVERY year it costs millions of dollars to restore or replace equipment at the city's public parks and gardens damaged by vandals hell-bent on destruction.
And of course, it is the Gold Coast ratepayers who have to pick up the tab.
More recently, a spate of senseless and cruel destruction has occurred at Palm Beach's Laguna Park, where earlier this year, the city council established Queensland's first special playground for children with mobility problems.
The area councillor, Daphne McDonald, said the playground, which cost in excess of $300,000, had been designed for the enjoyment of those children who would find it difficult to cope with some of the conventional play equipment.
"Students of Gold Coast special schools and those from over the border are frequently escorted to enjoy the park and it really plays a very important role in providing safe enjoyment," Cr McDonald said.
"Lately, fences around the playground have been broken, gates destroyed, toilets rubbished and some of the playground equipment ruined," she said.
Even the specially-designed and fenced Liberty Swing had been attacked, Cr McDonald said.
The Liberty Swing, one of only two on the Gold Coast, was a specialised and expensive piece of equipment which allowed children and adults in wheelchairs to enjoy a swinging motion.
"How could anyone deliberately destroy a playground which brings so much joy to our special kids?
"This is vandalism at its most cruel and those apprehended -- and they will be -- should be ordered to community service among our children who have some problem and need a specially- designed safe play area for their enjoyment."
Cr McDonald said the upshot of the recent vandalism at Laguna Park meant that council had stepped up security at the park.
"Security officers will be there at various times of the day and night, and the vandals will be caught," she said. "I have no doubt, and nearby residents who witness shameful destruction are asked to immediately notify the council," she said.
Concerned local residents had already contacted her whenever damage had occurred to equipment in the park, angry that the facility had been targeted.
The park, which was used by hundreds of children each week (both with and without disabilities), was a community asset which all residents should be proud, Cr McDonald said.
"People come from all over to enjoy the park -- busloads from Brisbane down to Lismore -- so the vandalism is such a shame."