BEVERLY — Officials at St. Barnabas Parish in Beverly have reached out to parishioners and school families asking for help to stem "an unprecedented amount of vandalism and destruction to the St. Barnabas campus."
Several incidents were detailed in an email and a Facebook post issued Friday afternoon. Both contained pictures of the damage, including a dead tree and large patches of mud — likely from children playing baseball behind the former convent.
Other incidents have included children making their way onto the roof and into the basement window wells of the school at 10121 S Longwood Drive. Still others have reported someone throwing rocks at cars from atop the hill — near the rectory.
"Unfortunately, we are seeing a theme of vandalism and unauthorized access to private property all over St. Barnabas. These children/teens are disrespectful when told that the park isn’t for ball-playing and frequently leave trash behind that our facilities crew must spend valuable time cleaning up," the Facebook post reads.
The statements from the parish point the finger at "groups of unattended St. Barnabas students, recent alums and children of parishioners" for the damage occurring in the spring and summer months.
The message also states that new signs warning against such behavior have been installed along with a new system of security cameras. Police have also been notified of the problem behavior, according to the online post.
A school secretary Monday said that there were no further incidents over the weekend, which she attributed to getting the word out about the problem. She added that one of the cell towers on the school's roof was damaged in a previous incident.
A volunteer gardener also said Monday that the increased time she's spent picking up litter this summer would have otherwise been spent beautifying the grounds. She's also found glass near the playground, which she fears could be dangerous for preschool and kindergarten students once classes resume.
In the area where baseball was being played, plastic fences now surround fresh seed sprinkled on what had clearly been used as the pitcher's mound and home plate. A makeshift first- and second-base are also now protected an effort to re-grow grass.
Gail Byrnes, the parish's business manager, said nobody would have bothered the children if they simply played baseball without causing any damage. But the destruction of the trees and field, coupled with other acts of vandalism, resulted in the strict stance.
"It was bigger than just the ball field," Byrnes said.