WAMEGO — Damage done to a building at City Park was caused by arson, according to the Wamego Police Department.
A fire on Monday damaged the Mahar Shelter House, a structure that houses the park’s children’s train and was constructed with volunteer labor in 2009 using donations from community members.
The Wamego Police Department became aware of the fire when Officer Derek Gray saw smoke rising from the building while on patrol Monday night.
The fire caused significant damage to the men’s bathroom in the building, but the dollar amount is undetermined.
It is the third suspected arson in Wamego this year, according to assistant police chief Paul Schliffke.
Schliffke said that in the past, the building has been spray painted and the windows have been shattered.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event,” he said.
The arson is a sentimental blow because of how much volunteer effort went into the train station’s construction.
The Wamego Community Foundation received a $100,000 grant to build the structure, and the rest of the funds came mostly from donations from the public. Volunteers from the community then built the train station.
“The vandalism is discouraging the business of the city, they’re hurting everyone,” said Julie Roller, development associate with the Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation.
The structure serves as a parking place for the children’s train, which runs on a track around the park three days a week.
It is also the resting place for the old train, which went out of use in 2007 and is now on display behind plate glass windows in the building.
During planning for the project, children in Wamego described what changes they wanted made in the park.
Roller said the children’s favorite part of the end product was the improved restrooms, because they could stay at the park to play instead of going home when they had to go to the bathroom.
That’s why she said targeting the bathroom was especially disappointing.
“Vandalizing something that was for the children and a positive community project, which involved so many, hurts all of us,” Roller said.
Rewards are being offered in this crime.
Wamego Police may be contacted at 785-456-9553 and tips can also be provided by calling 1-800-KSCRIME (800-572-7463).