Vandals Lay Waste to Conservation

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 8, 2010

two different times. Each time, vandals destroyed the buildings. At $14,500 apiece, they were too expensive to rebuild a third time.

"Privies are put in for more than convenience," said Dave Lewis, construction chief for the Department. "They also prevent waste from contaminating the resources of the area, which is especially important at wetlands and river accesses that have heavy use."

Lewis says he is amazed at the efforts vandals go through to destroy these concrete buildings. At Lake Girardeau Conservation Area, west of Jackson, vandals cut a hole in the roof with a chainsaw, and then ripped out all of the plumbing.

"If they had used the same amount of effort in a constructive manner, they could have built two more privies," Lewis said. "It's frustrating. We could take those dollars and develop more access to our areas rather than fixing things we've already developed."

Areas all over the state suffer from many different kinds of vandalism. At the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area east of Lee's Summit, the Conservation Department rents boats for $5 a day as a service for anglers who don't have their own boats. So people don't have to wait until the office opens at 8 a.m. to start fishing, the boats are rented on the honor system by slipping money into a slot on a pipe safe. One night, a group of thieves figured out how to use a straw to ease the money back out of the hole.

With a tip from the Independence Police Department, Conservation Agent Tammy Cornine charged three teens with the theft. One was convicted and paid $570 in restitution. The resourceful staff at the Reed area has redesigned the safes so the money can't be removed without a key.

Vandals also cause about $2,000 damage a year at the Reed Area by destroying oars and life jackets and by dropping anchors from the boats into the lake. As a result, agents frequently patrol the area to keep vandals from ruining the outdoor experience for others.

Fire towers also are a favorite target for vandals. Once a primary defense tool against Ozark wildfires, only a few are still needed today. With modern equipment, such as planes and satellite photos, foresters spend less time in towers. One tower that is still used during fire season is the Mountain View Fire Tower in Howell County. This tower is easy to reach by fire spotters and vandals alike.

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