Jasper police are investigating a fire which destroyed a large portion of the APEX playground, located at Memorial Park. Jasper Police Chief Danny Patton said he was notified of the fire at 2:40 a.m. Sunday. He said officers with the Jasper Police Department and members of the Jasper Fire Department responded to the scene.
“We are investigating the incident,” he said. “We are following up leads and will be actively seeking the persons responsible for this.”
The $350,000 playground opened in 2007 and is accessible to the physically challenged. Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey wasted no time Sunday announcing a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the incident.
“To burn a playground is awful and bad enough, but to burn a playground that answers a need like this one does is heinous,” Posey said. “There is no better way to describe the people who did this than evil. This is as evil as evil can be.”
Jennifer Smith, an employee with the City of Jasper, was instrumental in securing funding for APEX when it was built. She said the area damaged by the fire was the most expensive part of the playground. She estimated the damage to the playground could be as much as $150,000.
“This is just horrible,” she said. “I was shocked when I found out. This playground brings so much joy to so many people. I can’t imagine someone would do something like this.”
Posey said city officials would start the rebuilding process today.
“We are going to get on it Monday, and we’ll have it rebuilt real quick,” he said. “This playground is so important to a segment of the population that has nowhere else to go. We will have it back soon, and we’ll have the ones responsible for this and they will face serious punishment.”
Anyone with information regarding the fire should contact the Jasper Police Department at 205-221-2121.