BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – County officials closed public restrooms at Virginia Park after staff discovered the locked public restrooms were vandalized.

This is an issue Kern County and Bakersfield City officials are both facing.

In addition, staff found plumbing and electrical equipment critically damaged or stolen, and all maintenance and cleaning supplies used to upkeep the park were also stolen. Forcing county officials to close the restrooms indefinitely due to the severe theft and vandalism, deeming it a public health and safety threat.

Though the park is monitored daily, Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop shares that the incident happened at a time no one was there.

“Our park rangers cannot be everywhere all the time. Obviously, if you’re a criminal or engaging in a criminal activity, you’re obviously not going to do it when a ranger’s around,” Alsop said.

According to Alsop, in the last six months, there have been 14 other instances of vandalism in the restrooms at Virginia Park.

“We’re fed up with this […] it’s frustrating when presumably one, two or three bad actors in a community ruin it for everybody and that’s just a shame,” Alsop said.

The county is not the only one struggling with this problem, so is the city of Bakersfield.

According to Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony, vandalism prompted temporary closures at MLK Park, Jefferson Park and other parks around the city.

A problem, like Alsop, he hopes will change.

“Every resident deserves a clean, safe park, and I do think it’s a very negative challenge when residents are going to the parks and don’t have access to proper restroom facilities,” Anthony said.

However, with the reoccurring instances of vandalism at city and county parks, Anthony shares that it is shaping how people feel about the parks as a whole.

“I think it takes its toll I think that people just kind of expect to not have anything that’s nice and clean and unfortunately I think that’s become the normal for the city and the county,” Anthony said.

As for Virginia Park, the county plans to invest nearly 1.5 million dollars in improvements and upgrades at Virginia Park over the next 12 to 24 months, which Alsop hopes will make a difference.

“This park means it’s important to a lot of people. That community out there deserves to have a nice park,” Alsop said.

Anyone with information about the crimes committed at the park or public space is asked to contact Kern County Park Rangers at 661-868-7016.