(Editor's note: On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the city's Parks Department clarified earlier reports and said that no koi fish or turtles perished as a result of the water fight.)
SAN DIEGO – Fundraising efforts have begun after officials said a water fight in Balboa Park late Saturday got totally out of hand and participants looking for water sources jumped into the iconic Lily Pond and ended up causing thousands of dollars in damage.
The vandalism at San Diego's treasured park, the largest civic park outside of Central Park in Manhattan, shocked the community and spurred Sydney Baldwin to start a campaign, “Help Pay For The Damages To The Balboa Park Reflecting Pool,” on the Give Forward website.
Baldwin wrote on Give Forward:
At midnight on August 12th, 2012, a massive, semi-organized water gun fight broke out. Over 2,000 people participated. The organizers specified that no one was to use the pond water, or go into the pond. Unfortunately, things got out of control, and $10,000 in damages was caused by the event. Let's help to pay for some of these damages.
As of 2:30 pm Monday, the campaign has raised $4,030 with the goal of reaching $10,000 to pay for damages. To donate, click HERE.
Organizers of the water fight heavily promoted the event on Social Media such as Facebook, D Guides San Diego, Quest4thebest.org and Yelp, prompting brief news reports by The Reader on July 31 and in Jim Winsor’s Aug. 9 “Out & About” nightlife column on SDGLN, among other media sites.
The water fight was independently organized by a group of friends, and was not promoted by the Hale Media marketing and promotions staff that was busy preparing for CityFest on Sunday in Hillcrest. The event was not promoted by SDGLN, SD PIX, the media company's weekly e-mail blast or in its online calendar of events.
Participants were asked to meet at the large fountain in front of the San Diego Natural History Museum at 11:45 pm Saturday, according to the post on The Reader online. However, the large fountain had been drained, according to reports, and participants apparently moved down to the historic Lily Pond to find their water source.
CBS8.com reported that a drain pipe in the pond was broken during the water fight involving water guns and water balloons, causing a dangerous drop in water and the likely death of fish and plant life. Its news report Sunday night also showed trampled landscape surrounding the pond.
Police are asking the organizers of “The Second Annual Midnight Water Gun Fight in Balboa Park” to step forward and take responsibility for the damage. They say that no arrests have been made.
Lt. Charles Lara with the San Diego Police Department told 7 San Diego news that the damage, estimated at $10,000, is a serious matter.
"This is gonna be carried as felony vandalism case because of the high dollar value associated with plants, the hardscape, the historic fountain on the other side of the park," Lara said.
Photos posted on Facebook showed a large crowd – estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 people – participating in the water fight. At least one person who posted photos has since taken those pictures down. A video posted on YouTube showed a rowdy crowd shouting, “U.S.A, U.S.A.,” perhaps a reference to the Olympics that were winding down in London.
San Diego City Councilmmember Todd Gloria, who holds the District 3 seat that includes Balboa Park, tweeted about the damage and praised park workers for their clean-up efforts on Sunday. They found remnants of balloons as well as water guns littered in the area along with the damaged landscape.
"SDPD is currently investigating. Those responsible for this destruction will be held responsible," Gloria tweeted.
Mayor Jerry Sanders was unhappy with the vandalism at the historical city park.
“Like every San Diegan, I am appalled by the complete disregard for our iconic park by these delinquents," Sanders said. "The damage they did to the century-old lily pond and the mess they left behind is unacceptable. We will hold those who did this accountable for their actions – which may be criminal – and for every penny it costs to return this area to its original beauty.”