ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People who live in one of Albuquerque’s oldest neighborhoods are saddened after someone destroyed part of the property. Someone set fire to one of the signature features of Highland Park, the wisteria-covered pergola. 

Residents want to know why someone would do something like this and if the city can do more to protect the park in the future. “Well, this is disappointing because you want to have a beautiful place and you want the children to have a beautiful place,” says Debra Brewster.

Residents are heartbroken after one of the city’s oldest parks was damaged. Someone set fire to the pergola in Highland Park near I-25 and Central, destroying the wisteria arbor. 

People say it’s especially painful because the city just recently renovated the park. In 2017, the city spent nearly $785,000 on a new playground, pergola, and landscaping. Now that pergola has been severely damaged after someone set fire to it over the weekend. Even the sign that read, “Highland Park,” has been vandalized and removed. 

Residents say this isn’t the first time the park has been vandalized. They constantly find things like needles and trash littering the park. Brenda Elwood is a volunteer who comes weekly to clean it up.

She says seeing the damage that was done makes her emotional. “This is a playground. Why would you? You do drugs on the playground. There’s got to be somewhere else you can do your drugs. Not here,” she says.

Other people say that families will try to come to the park but when they see the homeless or drug users, they end up leaving. “And I’ve seen cars full of children come to play in the playground and they see the situation and just get back in the car and I guess go to a different playground. That’s, that’s sad,” says Ben Sturge. 

KRQE reached out to the Parks and Recreation Department to see if they need to replant the vines. They say these plants are resilient and have strong roots, so they may sprout again. 

Parks and Recreation could not say offhand how often they respond to that part for reports of vandalism, other damage, or homeless camps. They said they’d have to get back to us with that number.