Birkenhead Park’s iconic Swiss Bridge has been “devastated” after heartless vandals set it on fire.
More than £20,000 of damage has been caused to the Grade II listed structure.
Police were called to the park at 8.30am on Sunday after a member of the public discovered the wooden bridge – built when the park first opened in 1847 – had been seriously damaged by flames.
The bridge will now require significant structural reconstruction before it can be used again.
Officers believe the damage was caused sometime between 2.10am and 4.20am on Sunday. They are keen to trace six young people seen in the area at the time wearing hooded tops.
The vandalism has been described as “devastating” by Wirral Council.
Cllr Chris Meaden, Wirral’s cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said: “Wirral Council will do everything it can to support the police investigation into this senseless act of vandalism.
“The park has a special place in Wirral’s heritage, it was recently included on a list of the World’s Top Parks, and our park rangers this morning have been inundated with people coming in to express their sadness and disgust at what has happened.
“Not only has this devastated a Grade II listed structure, the damage – which is extensive – will cost the council, and thereby council tax payers, upwards from £20,000 to repair.
“The bridge will be closed for the time being, but will reopen as soon as we are able. Meanwhile, we will be helping the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Birkenhead Neighbourhood Sergeant Cath Squire said: “Vandalism such as this is not a victimless crime. This is a valued and much loved feature of a historic park, the enjoyment of which has been spoiled by a mindless act. It has been situated in the park for 168 years and enjoyed by generations of people from Wirral as well as visitors from outside the area.
“The bridge was repainted in recent years making this damage all the more upsetting for those who have invested time, effort and money maintaining it.
“We are very keen to speak to anyone who may have information that can help us with our enquiries and would urge anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour in the park overnight on Saturday into Sunday to contact us. We would also appeal to any parents whose child was out late on Saturday night and returned home with clothes smelling of smoke on Sunday to get in touch.
“Neighbourhood officers have paid close attention to the town’s green spaces over the Summer to ensure they remain safe and pleasant places for people of all ages to enjoy, and will continue to do so. Where we witness anti-social behaviour or criminal damage we will take action using the resources we have available.”
The damage comes just months after vandals left a trail of destruction in the historic park when a scooter was set on fire in August.
One of the exercise stations – installed in 2013 and understood to have cost in the region of £3,000 – was damaged by the blaze and had to be replaced by the council.
Anyone with information should contact Merseyside Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.