Corey Wilkenson marched 10 blocks through searing heat with a towel draped over his shoulders, ignoring the sweat that dripped off his forehead and stung his eyes. He would soon get relief in the Patterson Park pool.
But the 10-year-old East Baltimore youth got no closer than the wrong side of a 12-foot-high chain-link fence, topped with barbed wire. The pool was closed and will be throughout the weekend, because someone poured toxic copying-machine toner into the water.
"Whoever did this should go to jail," Corey said as he stared in disbelief at the empty, Olympic-size pool that is normally filled with 300 splashing children. "They ought to get an electric
Vandals have been a continual problem at Patterson Park and the city's other 23 public pools this year. Most of the trouble has been limited to people climbing over or cutting through fences to swim after the 7 p.m. closing time.
But damage has been severe at the pool in sprawling Patterson Park. Officials with the city Department of Recreation and Parks said the fence has been cut every night since the park's two pools were filled with water June 13.
On Tuesday, police arrested five youngsters and charged them as juveniles with trespassing and vandalism. Guy Taylor, the pool manager, said the youths broke into a storage building, scattered rescue buoys and tools around the complex and stole an industrial-sized wire cutter left during an earlier break-in.
In another incident shortly after midnight yesterday, Randy Moore, 24, of the 1900 block of McCulloh St. in West Baltimore and Gerald Banks, 23, of the 4000 block of Strathmore Ave. in Northeast Baltimore were arrested and charged with % 5/8 trespassing, police said.
Maj. Timothy Longo, Southeastern District commander, said officers found one man swimming in the pool and another inside the complex. He said the suspects are not involved in the toner incident, which apparently occurred later yesterday morning.
Police said someone poured three containers of Xerox Developer No. 5052, a powder used to darken images from copying machines, into a small 10-foot-deep pool that shares a filtering system with the larger, 50-meter-long pool a few feet away.
Annette Stenhouse, a spokeswoman for the recreation department, said both pools are contaminated. The deeper pool had the most visible damage -- black splotches resembling an oil slick floating on the top.
More than 50,000 gallons of water has to be drained from both pools -- a process that takes a day -- and workers will have to scrub and sanitize the walls and bottom before the Fire Department can refill the empty basins. Stenhouse said she hopes the pool can open by Monday.
"Now we'll have to go home and sit in a hot house," said Corey, who was with his friends Lenny Cochran, 11, and Jamal Lewis, 12. "We wanted to go swimming bad. They messed up our day." Lenny summed up the problem: "I'm suffocating."
The forecast doesn't look promising. The official high recorded at the Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor was 95 degrees at 4: 55 p.m. yesterday. Relief isn't in sight until early next week.
"It may drop back into the upper 80s next week," said Dewey Walston, a National Weather Service forecaster.
Pub Date: 6/26/98