By Gary Walker  

Damages included smashed walls, broken locks and lots of graffiti

Vandals have struck again at the Culver-Marina Little League’s baseball field in the Ballona Wetlands, damaging the kitchen and restrooms, leaving league organizers increasingly frustrated and delaying preparations for next season.

“We saw that someone had broken the door on the men’s bathroom and spray-painted ‘Tweaker Gang’ on the wall. Someone got into the kitchen through the roof and it looks like they took a lot of pans,” lamented Culver-Marina Little League Vice President Leo Santos, a Del Rey resident. “There was graffiti all over the place.”

Santos said he and other league parents discovered the vandalism on Sept. 27, a day or two after removing bedding, clothing and other debris from the dugouts that suggested people had been living and sleeping there.

Tucked in the wetlands along Culver Boulevard, the field is largely hidden from public view and is located on state land. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which oversees the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, patrols the area — but not full-time, said spokeswoman Jordan Traverso.

Fish & Wildlife staff helped clean up debris left in some of the dugouts, she said, but have not been contacted by league representatives about the break-in and believes vandals may have entered through a broken fence.

“There were issues in the past with those types of activities occurring, and we authorized the little league to upgrade the scoring booth a few years ago to prevent future break-ins. The fence was cut in numerous places and literally rolled back,” Traverso said.

There have been multiple break-ins at the Culver-Marina field, including one in 2014 that involved destruction that seemed wanton and deliberate: vandals ripped up team banners, stole bats and gloves, broke into the snack bar and restrooms, spray-painted satanic symbols on building walls and left piles of trash scattered throughout the diamond and dugouts, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. LAPD officers arrested two men with outstanding arrest warrants and detained several others in a sweep of wetlands homeless encampments that followed the 2014 break-in.

Santos, who owns a landscaping business, said parents and league board members are all volunteers who spend numerous hours maintaining the field and prepping it during the fall for each new spring season. The adults have done their best to shield the most recent damage from the younger children, he said, but some have seen the destruction.

“In their own little way they’re mad. But we tell them we’ve got this. Don’t worry about it,” Santos said.

The Playa del Rey Trash Fairies, a volunteer cleanup group, heard about the vandalism and pitched in to assist with cleanup efforts.

“There was a photo of some kids looking so despondent. It was heart-breaking,” said Trash Fairies organizer Sara Kay. “It was about expanding the idea that neighborhoods take care of
each other.”