SHAMOKIN - The padlock and chain that have kept the Shamokin Street playground closed the past seven months is expected to come off the main gate this week.

The playground could reopen as early as Thursday, according to Kevin Richardson, public works foreman.

It had been locked down since mid-October by former Police Chief Edward Griffiths, who cited bad behavior by teenagers and young adults along with dozens of lewd messages scrawled in marker on a sliding board.

The hard courts at the playground had also been locked, although limited access had been granted to members of a local street hockey league.

New mulch was spread, a swing was repaired and litter has been picked up. The sliding board will remain closed until an anti-graffiti paint can be applied.

Councilwoman Barbara Moyer, director of parks and public buildings, said some residents who live near the playground are anxious to see it reopen. She expects there will be an increase in routine police presence.

Moyer said she was "put off" after reading some of the writings on the sliding board, and that she "would not want any children exposed to that."

The anti-graffiti paint needs consistent nights with temperatures above 50 degrees for it to dry effectively. The weather hasn't been very cooperative, otherwise the playground would have reopened already.

"I don't want people to think we're just blowing it off. I really want that playground open," she said.

It's not unusual to hear over an emergency scanner that city police officers are being dispatched to the Shamokin Street playground for fights and foul language. Griffiths said in October that bad behavior has kept well-meaning parents and their children away from the facility.

Damage to the playground over the years has gone beyond simple wear-and-tear. Two swing set chains were intentionally broken. A toddler swing seat was knifed apart. No less than 10 holes were cut into the chain link fence. A gate was knocked off its hinge. A memorial sign was sheared off at its base. Caps on a retaining wall were pulled off. And mulch was set on fire.

Two times each week, for 20 to 30 minutes, a pair of street department employees would pick up litter in the playground.

There's a bit of vandalism at every city playground, but nothing like at Shamokin Street, Richardson said in October.

A nearby city-owned skate park on Rock Street had been closed due to vandalism and drug activity.