Highland Park pergola burnt down

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Residents of one of Albuquerque’s oldest neighborhoods are saddened after someone destroyed part of their property. Someone has set fire to one of Highland Park’s iconic features, the wisteria-covered pergola.

Residents want to know why anyone would do something like this and if the city can do more to protect the park in the future. “Well, it’s disappointing because you want to have a nice place and you want the kids to have a nice place,” says Debra Brewster.

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

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

Residents say this is not 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 in weekly to clean it up.

She says seeing the damage that has been done makes her emotional. “It’s a playground. Why would you want to? You do your drugs in the playground. There has to be another place where you can do your drugs. Not here,” she said.

Others say families will try to come to the park but when they see the homeless or drug addicts, they end up leaving. “And I’ve seen cars full of kids come and play in the playground and they see the situation and get back in the car and I guess they’re going to another playground. That’s, that’s sad,” says Ben Sturge.

KRQE contacted the parks and recreation department to see if they should replant the vines. They say these plants are hardy and have strong roots, so they can regrow.

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