CHINA — When members of the China Baptist Church arrived for services Sunday morning, they were confronted with a shocking sight — the lawn of the church’s park on China Lake had been torn up by a vehicle.

The small scenic park on Causeway Road, across from the church, is a popular place for children and families to swim and picnic. The church allows the public to use the park, although it is owned by the church.

Church member Margaret Rodrigue, 33, said parishioners were upset when they arrived at church Sunday morning to find the park’s lawn rutted and muddy. The church, founded in 1801, holds baptisms at the park and a lot of older people like to go there, according to Rodrigue.

She said she was baptized there and her niece’s baptism is to be held there next month.

“It may seem really minuscule or trivial to those who did it,” she said of the vandalism, “but it’s pretty significant to those of us whose families have been going there over 100 years.”

Rodrigue’s daughter, Emma, 5, said she “was really sad and really mad” when she saw the vandalism Sunday.

This is the second such case of vandalism to occur in China this month. On Aug. 5, someone spray-painted vulgar and obscene graffiti on eight gravestones at Pleasant View Ridge Cemetery. Many of those headstones were more than 100 old. No one has been charged in the case.

Rodrigue and her father, David Rodrigue, a church deacon, said no one had reported the park vandalism to police. He said he believes it happened Friday night, because people who walk by there all the time have said they did not see it during the day Friday.

“It’s just a matter of educating folks — you don’t go in a park and spin your tires and do fishtails or whatever,” David Rodrigue said.

He said the members of the church’s board of trustees will likely decide about fixing the damage.

“I think what they’ll have to do, in my opinion, is just rake it over and probably seed it,” he said.

Witht he church’s pastor, Ronald Morell Sr., out of town, David Rodrigue preached at the church Sunday.

Contacted by phone, Morrell said he wasn’t aware of the vandalism, but was going to make some calls to learn more about it.

The park, at the head of China Lake, was quiet Sunday afternoon. Peter McKeil, 64, rode into the park on his bicycle to check out the vandalism, the news of which was spreading around town.

“This is sad,” McKeil said. “Why would anybody do this on church property? It’s vandalism, for sure. I mean, this is wrong. I’ve lived here all my life and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this — this or the cemetery vandalism.

“As good as the church is to let people swim here — and somebody does this.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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