WASHINGTON PARK — Weeks after the Washington Park Christmas tree banner was vandalized, someone set fire to the tree, destroying parts of the holiday display early Monday.
The tree is part of a holiday display organized by the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce and funded by community donations. This is the second year the group has put up and decorated a tree near Garfield Boulevard and King Drive, bringing Christmas decorations to the neighborhood so residents don’t have to go Downtown to see holiday lights.
Both years, someone has damaged the tree.
Last year, a driver mowed down the entire display days before Christmas. The culprit wasn’t identified and the tree couldn’t be replaced.
Earlier this month, someone ripped down the banner at the base of the tree. The neighborhood group quickly repaired it and put it back in place.
And on Monday, the tree was apparently set on fire. Detectives are still investigating. Police said no one is in custody.
Donna Hampton-Smith, the chamber’s CEO, thinks someone outside of the community may be to blame.
“People really loved this tree, and they really took ownership of it,” Hampton-Smith said. “Even the folks at the gas station kept an eye on it. They were the ones who called me this morning.”
Hampton-Smith rushed over to take pictures of the damage when she heard the tree had been targeted again. She said she filed a police report.
Despite the problems, Hampton-Smith said the tree and the rest of the holiday display will return next season. Neighbors who learned of the incident already reached out to Hampton-Smith to donate for next year’s celebration, which gives her hope.
“This hurts because this community deserves nice things,” said Hampton-Smith.
People who want to help can call the chamber directly at 773-955-0199 and leave a message with their contact information.