Vandalism of new Kalamazoo Farmers Market building, fitness court irks city leaders

KALAMAZOO, MI — City of Kalamazoo officials are not happy about new graffiti that’s appeared on city structures — and just feet away from a graffiti wall, built to provide a creative outlet for people who want to practice tagging.

Graffiti recently appeared at Upjohn Park’s outdoor fitness court/gym and on the restroom building at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market. A vehicle was also used to destroy two tables outside of Kik Pool, Parks and Recreation Director Patrick McVerry said.

The graffiti on the fitness court was done early in the morning sometime early last week — at the same time the picnic tables were destroyed, McVerry said.

“We think the graffiti was done all in the same night,” McVerry said. The paint includes some explicit words and names. Paint was sprayed on the exercise equipment at the fitness court, which just opened in October.

The words “God why have u abandoned me” were scrawled in uneven block letters on the side of the farmers market restroom building, which opened to the public late in the second half of 2022.

Cameras were not pointed at the fitness court directly and the city dies not have footage of the act, McVerry said.

He is waiting on a response from the manufacturer on the best way to remove the paint from vinyl graphics of the fitness court. The city plans to work on removing the paint after hearing from the manufacturer, he said.

The city owns the farmer’s market site, which is overseen by the city parks and recreation department.

McVerry encourages people to paint the Upjohn Park graffiti wall — a space the city created in 2019 for creative expression.

“There are rules posted for the graffiti wall and up until last weekend, it was very successful in cutting down on the issues,” McVerry said. “We would encourage people to use that graffiti wall with following the rules to help keep the parks buildings clean and presentable for our community.”

The sign at the Upjohn Park graffiti wall gives some guidelines to artists.

Graffiti can also be seen on buildings in and around downtown.

The city of Kalamazoo passed an ordinance in 2019 to require property owners to clean up graffiti.

“City staff will now have the ability to abate the nuisance and/or charge property owners with civil infractions in order to exert more control over the graffiti problem in the city,” the 2019 recommendation to the city commission said. “The city’s administration plans to hold itself accountable for removal of graffiti from city property.”

Even though graffiti is typically vandalism, it is still the responsibility of the property owner to remove it, the city website states.

The city asks people to report graffiti, and city officials will reach out to the property owner with information about graffiti removal and getting free supplies.

Generally, they have 10 days to remove the graffiti, the city said, but it will work with property owners who are trying to clean their properties.

Graffiti is a destruction of property and a misdemeanor under state law, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Jay Shatara said.

If the vandalism creates enough damage, it can turn into a felony.

“As the weather gets warmer, KDPS has noticed an uptick of vandalism in the city,” Shatara said. KDPS encourages people to add surveillance equipment if their business or home has been subject to vandalism.

The department’s Community Policing Unit has been on the lookout for vandalism and is working closely with the city on the graffiti issue, and working swiftly to clean up public spaces.

“We plead with the public to keep our city clean and beautiful,” Shatara said.

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