Volunteers showed up to repair damages to the lily pond in Balboa Park Monday after vandals took water from the pond, trampled the iconic lilies and killed the pond's koi fish. Read the full article
Vandals damaged the iconic lily pond in front of the Botanical Building over the weekend according to Balboa Park officials.
A midnight water fight, with an estimated 1500 to 2000 people taking part, is believed to have caused thousands of dollars of damage.
"They broke a critical piece of piping that will keep the water flow in the lily pond," said City of San Diego Park and Recreation Director Stacey Lomedico. "It is very likely that we may lose all the lilies in the pond today as well as the fish."
Plants surrounding the pond were also damaged.
The suspects left behind water guns and remnants of water balloons, park officials said. Those responsible face serious charges.
"This is gonna be carried as felony vandalism case because of the high dollar value associated with plants, the hardscape, the historic fountain on the other side of the park," said Lt. Charles Lara with the San Diego Police Department.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders released a statement saying he was appalled at the damage done by people he called “delinquents."
“The damage they did to the century-old lily pond and the mess they left behind is unacceptable," Sanders statement reads. "We will hold those who did this accountable for their actions – which may be criminal – and for every penny it costs to return this area to its original beauty.”
Authorities said damages to the pond were reported just before 4:30 a.m. Sunday. A park worker said it appeared vandals had actually jumped into the lily pond.
According to an online post, an event dubbed the “2nd Annual Midnight Water Gun Fight at Balboa Park” was scheduled for Saturday night. The event description instructs participants to “meet at the large fountain in front of the Natural History Museum at 11:45 p.m.” and bring their own water guns.
“First squirt will be at the stroke of midnight and then it is a free-for-all of water gun madness,” the online post states.
A Facebook event page dedicated to a “Midnight Water Gun Fight” in Balboa Park currently reflects that at least 56 people went to the event and logged their attendance via the Facebook event page.
An event page on Yelp also mentions the water gun fight at Balboa Park, followed by several comments from users discussing damages to the Lily Pond. One user says there were about 2,000 people at the event.
On Sunday morning, crews worked to refill the pond and repair minor damages.
At this point, NBC 7 has not been able to track down participants or organizers of the water gun fight.
Officials did not confirm if the online posts for the planned water gun fight are in fact related to the vandalism at the Balboa Park Lily Pond.
On Sunday, District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria took to his Twitter account to discuss the vandalism to the Balboa Park pond. He praised park workers for their clean-up efforts.
"Thank you to our City staff for quickly cleaning up the mess vandals left at #BalboaPark lily pond this morning," Gloria tweeted.
Another tweet from Gloria read: "SDPD is currently investigating. Those responsible for this destruction will be held responsible."
Rep. Bob Filner, who is currently running for San Diego mayor, called into question the involvement of Johnathan Hale, life partner to Filner's opponent and current San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio.
Hale is the publisher for SDGLN.com, a website that promoted the original water fight event.
In a statement issued late Monday, Filner claims "Carl DeMaio's partner reportedly helped to organize it. I call on Carl to condemn Johnathan Hale's criminal actions."
"I think voters should be concerned about someone like this playing a significant role in the next mayoral administration," Filner's statement continued.
On Monday, DeMaio organized an evening news conference to address Filner's accusation.
On Wednesday, police said it could take up to six weeks to build a solid case and investigation surrounding the damages to the lily pond.
Police said they have been challenged with identifying suspects through videos and photos posted online from the late-night water fight.
If suspects are identified, police said investigators will be tasked with proving whether any of the suspects were intentionally vandalizing the pond.
“We can only try those that you can put a case together on. So we would have to have video proof or enough witnesses to convince the jury that they committed an act that was criminal,” explained SDPD Chief William Lansdowne.
Suspects could face vandalism charges or be required to provide reimbursements for the damages to the Balboa Park landmark. Anyone with information about those involved is urged to contact police.
Meanwhile, police said they are working closer with the security at Balboa Park to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.