MEMBERS of a volunteer group have slammed the ‘mindless acts of vandalism’ after benches were damaged in the recently refurbished Hermitage Park.

Friends of Hermitage Park have been working on developing and improving the green space in Helensburgh town centre since 2011 and the charity has received significant financial backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund and several other grants.

But volunteers and visitors were dismayed to discover that yobs had tried to set new benches and picnic tables alight, leaving burn marks just months after the park reopened.

Fiona Baker, chair of the Friends, said: “It is bizarre that someone tried to burn the new picnic benches and tables – the very facility that they were sitting at and using.

“It’s very disappointing, I just don’t understand it.

“We are trying to do this for everyone. Do none of their parents or family want to use the park?

“This vandalism is incredibly selfish.

“We wish they would think about how members of their own families might like to use the park before they try and destroy something that is for the benefit of everyone.”

The park reopened in September and several incidents have been reported since, including around £15,000 worth of damage to the pavilion building, as well as graffiti and other acts of vandalism.

Helensburgh community councillor John Tacchi, speaking at the organisation’s monthly meeting this week, said: “It’s quite clear that there are a number of people, age and gender unknown, who are determined to make a bloody nuisance of themselves, and to create damage to a hugely valuable asset to the town.

“What actions can the community take, or will the police take, to protect £3m of investment?”

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: “Mindless vandalism is selfish behaviour for which there can be no excuse.

“We know that the vast majority of people have pride in their town and are frustrated when others behave in this way.

"Once the work at the park is completed, we are hopeful that the increase in visitors will make it largely self-policing.

“However, all incidents of vandalism are reported to the police and we will do everything in our power to help identify the culprits.”

There have been calls for surveillance cameras to be installed to deter any would-be vandals, while the police have said they will be stepping up patrols in the area.

A Police Scotland officer told the community council’s meeting: “We can’t go down and just take the names of everyone we see in the park unless there is firm evidence of criminality.

“We can look at known problem areas in other towns and bring back examples of what has worked elsewhere.

“We are happy to explore what we can do to help in terms of accessing funding.”