September 10, 2020 | Why the Fountain Has Been Dark This Week

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The landmark Fountain at The Circle has been dark and dry much of the past week. There’s nothing wrong with it: the pumping system is fine, the lights have not been dimmed by a power shutoff, and water, thankfully, remains plentiful for now.

The fountain is off because, for the third time in less than a week, someone decided to vandalize it: pouring in multiple bottles of detergent to create mounds of suds and give it the appearance of a huge bubble bath.

Whoever is to blame almost surely thinks this is just a harmless prank — if they are thinking at all. And truly, there’s nothing really dangerous occurring: no one is injured, the fountain structure itself is not harmed. At a time when we are all dealing with far weightier concerns, including a pandemic, massive wildfires, a reckoning on racial inequities and a seriously damaged economy, a few soap suds does not seem like much to get upset about. But even minor transgressions can have serious consequences.

There are costs to these “harmless pranks.” There are the thousands of gallons of water wasted each time the soapy mess has to be drained into the sewer system. There are the hours of time teams of volunteers must spend cleaning up the mess, getting all the soap out of the pools and pumping system, refilling the fountain and getting it up and running again. And there is the aesthetic cost of having this city landmark, created by a community campaign and cared for by a community nonprofit, out of commission for days at a time.

What can be done? many people ask each time this mindless vandalism occurs. Install security cameras or fencing? Post warning signs? Such measures might deter some would-be perpetrators, but they might embolden others. And they would fundamentally change the very nature of what they would aim to protect: a simple but elegant community treasure meant to delight, not deter, passers-by.

Instead the fountain relies on what publicly accessible landmarks have always relied on to protect them: community pride and goodwill. For most of us, those sentiments are second nature when it comes to how we value our public treasures. But for some, clearly, they are not.

So what can be done?

On one level, we can ask, and hope, that would-be vandals think twice before doing something ultimately so pointless and unnecessary for a few moments’ gratification. We can ask, and hope, that anyone who might know the person or persons who have been vandalizing the fountain this past week – or at any time — would help them see how pointless and damaging their actions are.

On another level is a preventive action such as halting the flow of the fountain after nightfall every evening. That is a step we would hate to find necessary. The fountain, glowing at night with its stoic but lovable grizzly bear cubs standing watch, is a joy to see.

So help us keep this local landmark vandalism-free. If you are tempted to soap it, please think about the costs and consequences of your action. If you are someone who values the fountain, please help us spread that message to anyone who may not be thinking enough to think twice.

Just as minor transgressions can have serious consequences, small acts of goodwill can have significant impact.

Thank you.

— Board of Directors, Friends of the Fountain and Walk

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10 Comments

  • N. Smith says:

    Thank you for this information. If I ever see someone committing the vandalism, be assured that I will speak out. And get information so the matter can be followed up.

    Do know how much we all enjoy the fountain and appreciate the work that others do to provide that enjoyment to everyone in the community.

  • Bob says:

    So many of us appreciate and agree with this post and the initial comment! We will be watching and taking action!

  • Barbara (Winett) Segal says:

    I strongly believe that the stupid people who put soap into the fountain should be found and severely punished. Pour some soap down their throats…and I do not think they will pour soap, ever again, into our beloved fountain!

  • anthony chavez says:

    Add an anti-foaming agent to the water.

    • Friends of the Fountain and Walk says:

      Hello, Anthony. We do use anti-foam agents from time to time, but there is not enough to use safely and efficiently that would ward off the massive amounts if soap usually thrown in the water.

  • Patrice C Ignelzi says:

    I very much appreciated both the clear information in and the tone of the article. Thank you for it. I hope it can be a model for other siutations and groups.

  • Paul Teicholz says:

    I don’t know how much water the fountain uses, but turning it off after dark is not a bad idea to reduce vandalism and save water. We will be having water shortages in the future months, and this might be a good idea in any case. I really value this fountain and want to see it have a long and sustainable life.

    • Steve says:

      Public uses of water that all can enjoy are an efficient use of resources. Not the place to save a few gallons of water. Why destroy beautiful things that we all enjoy rather than cutting back in other ways? It’s like letting the grass die in parks rather than seeing it as a common area that ultimately saves water as people don’t need their own patch. Short sighted.
      Thanks – I wish the surrounding homes would put in security cameras! Private networks don’t require any bureaucratic hoops!

  • Gail Feldman says:

    I’m sorry this has happened again. It seems to be a yearly occurrence. I guess this is the work of bored kids. Send your post to Berkeleyside and ask them to do a story so that more residents understand the problem that is occurring. Putting up a sign stating that suds destroy the fountain is necessary but may not deter some people. No one should be hanging out in fountain area as it is distracting to drivers. I support installing an electric fence to keep people off the entire median.

    • Friends of the Fountain and Walk says:

      Thanks for your note. We have been in touch with Berkeleyside; we’ll see if they think there is a story here.

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