SAN DIEGO Public donations are coming in to help repair Balboa Park’s damaged lily pond. San Diego Parks And Recreation Director Stacey LoMedico estimates repairs could cost close to $10,000. Saturday night a water gun fight, promoted on social media, apparently got out of control. Several flower boxes and a drainage pipe were broken. Several lilies were also destroyed, though no fish or turtles were killed.
Balboa Park is recovering after a nasty water gun fight there this weekend left its beloved lily pond trashed.
LoMedico said there is security in the park, but they have a lot of ground to cover.
"The private security company is doing patrols over the 1,100 to 1,200 acres of the park," she said. "So it’s quite possible at them time the company was on the east side of the park and didn’t see anything."
San Diego police said they did not receive any calls for service in the park Saturday night and were extremely busy in the Gaslamp Quarter downtown. They were aware of the event, but weren’t very concerned because a similar event last year drew a smaller crowd and didn’t cause any problems. Nearly 8,000 people received the Facebook invite to this year’s event.
A cached image of the Facebook invitation lists nine people as organizers of the event. The first man listed appears to be politically active in the LGBT community. He has donated money to Councilman Carl DeMaio's mayoral campaign and counts DeMaio and Councilman Todd Gloria as Facebook friends, though both council offices point out the man has more than 1,300 friends on Facebook. Gloria issued a statement that read in part, "The people who damaged public property must be held accountable."
Congressman Bob Filner, the other mayoral candidate, emailed a statement to reporters that called on DeMaio to condemn the actions of Johnathan Hale, DeMaio's partner and the publisher of San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, for his "criminal actions.''
An article that ran in Hale's publication on Thursday, which promoted the upcoming CityFest in Hillcrest, mentioned the water fight, which was originally supposed to take place at the fountain near Park Boulevard. Then fountain was closed for maintenance.
"I think voters should be concerned about someone like this playing a significant role in the next mayoral administration,'' Filner said.
At a news conference, DeMaio called Filner's comments "desperate personal attacks against my family.'' That kind of "mean-spirited divisiveness'' might be typical in Congress, but is rejected in San Diego, he said.
DeMaio said how a mayor responds to such incidents is a test of leadership
"We need a mayor who allows for a full investigation of these incidents and waits for all facts to be determined before casting judgment on who should be held accountable,'' DeMaio said. "By condemning an innocent man today without any facts, Bob Filner has shown he is unfit to lead this city.''
Mayor Jerry Sanders also issued a statement condemning the damage done to the pond.
“Like every San Diegan, I am appalled by the complete disregard for our iconic park by these delinquents. The damage they did to the century-old lily pond and the mess they left behind is unacceptable. 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.”
San Diego Police Detective Gary Hassen said the investigation is ongoing and people are being interviewed. He said anyone charged could face felony vandalism charges.
The city is working with the non-profit organization Friends of Balboa Park to accept donations for repairs.
LoMedico said Sunday was a tough day for the people who work at the lily pond. But she said they have also been overwhelmed by the number of people who want to help fix the damage.
City News Service contributed to this report.