Unwanted Visitors: Punks Destroy Parts of Fresno's Japanese Garden

It's considered one of the jewels of Fresno, now it's being trashed and misused.

Volunteers say vandals are breaking into and destroying parts of the Shinzen Japanese Garden inside Woodward Park.

Recently, two authentic granite lanterns, worth about $1,000 each, were broken and tossed into the lake.

"We had to find it in the lake and used rope to pull it out of the water," said Art Munger, who sits on the Shinzen Friendship Garden Board of Directors.

Now they have to pay to put lanterns back together.

"And we've done that for one lantern, two lanterns, three lanterns, and we're tired of spending money repairing the garden. We'd rather add nice features to the garden instead of building it back up when vandals destroy it," said Munger.

And it's not just broken lanterns, at one point, homeless people were sleeping in a thatched roof teahouse, which was built in Japan and re-assembled here in Fresno.

"They took a couple of these bamboo out and turned a couple panels sideways so they could just walk through it," said Munger, showing how two homeless people broke into the teahouse.

"We've had many parties in this teahouse, we find beer cans, we even found whiskey bottles," said Munger.

He's scared vandals may torch the teahouse, investigators say someone set an information kiosk in Woodward Park on fire last week.

Not even the fish are safe.

Munger says punks have been fishing the koi out in the pond.

Volunteers don't expect much help from the city - which has drastically cut the parks budget over the years.

They just hope people who use the park, pay it more respect.

"Well this garden has a lot more potential, it could be a tourist attraction in the area," said Munger.

The designer of the Shinzen Japanese Garden is currently working on plans to build a cultural center building which would be located inside the garden.

It includes a restaurant that overlooks the grounds.