Vesuvius vandals sought

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 2004

PEDRO - Vandals have defaced the natural beauty of Lake Vesuvius' rocks and boardwalks, leaving Wayne National Forest officials in search of a few last names.

Within the past week, someone spray-painted graffiti and names that include John, Amanda, Dustin, Kelsey and Jana Dawn across the rock faces and wooden boardwalk beneath the massive overhang known as Rock House that sets off a trail behind the boat ramp.

District ranger Gloria Chrismer said she is furious with the disrespect and would like the community's help in finding the individuals who committed the crime.

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"We cannot have our natural resources vandalized like this," she said. "We have to do something to stop it."

As something she feels very strongly about, Chrismer said it hurts to see vandalism like this.

The case has been turned over to the Forest Service's law enforcement division to continue the investigation that will include determining the monetary value of the damage. This will determine if the crime is a misdemeanor or felony.

If the damage is less than $500, it is considered a misdemeanor charge of criminal damaging. If damages exceed $500, violators can be charged with

felony vandalism, which at the very least carries a fine of up to $2,500 and up to 18 months in jail.

The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office may also be contacted before the investigation is completed, Chrismer said.

If problems persist, the district may have to start locking all the gates at night and charging admission to the facilities. Hopefully, it will not come to that, Chrismer said.

The graffiti will not be easy to remove. In the past, some areas have been sand-blasted but it is an expensive process.

It is too soon to determine what will be done this time, but it will be important to preserve the natural environment," Chrismer said.

Unfortunately, vandalism problems have already started to spread to the new handicapped-access boardwalk that connects the boat ramp with the top of the dam. Even though the boardwalk was only recently opened to the public, people have already carved their names and other items onto the benches and wooden areas.

"We spent $1 million on the new boardwalk," Chrismer said. "I can't believe the disrespect."

Anyone with information about these crimes can contact the Wayne National Forest's Ironton Ranger District at 534-6500.