Authorities investigate report of vandalism at Lake Combs

Friday, June 7, 2002

Daily Dunklin Democrat

The Little River Conservation area, located five miles east of Kennett on Highway 412, was struck twice by vandalism over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, according to Darin Pettit, Missouri Department of Conservation agent for Dunklin County.

The vandalism took place early Sunday morning, May 26, and again Tuesday night, May 28, Pettit said.

"In both incidents, signs were torn down, destroyed and thrown into Lake Jerry Paul Combs," he said. "Other happenings these nights included littering and breaking glass bottles on the parking lot. Not only that, the subjects involved were also in violation of trespassing on a conservation area."

The Missouri Department of Conservation has thousands of areas, accesses and land which it maintains and operates. Dunklin County alone has six Conservation Areas the department is responsible for maintaining and patrolling.

"Keeping those figures in mind, it's easy to see how someone could, it they chose, vandalize or destroy one or many of the areas on the same day without getting caught," Pettit said.

Each area owned or operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation has special rules and regulations that apply. One rule that can be found on all Conservation areas are the hours open to public use. This law, more commonly known as "10-4 closure" says that Conservation Areas are closed to the public or entry between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. unless they are actively using the resource. Such activities include things like hunting, fishing, or in some instances, camping. Anyone caught on the areas after 10 p.m. and who is not actively using the resource is considered to be trespassing and subject to citation.

Public asked for help

Help is being sought by the public, Pettit said. The Conservation Department has an "Operation Game Thief" telephone number where people can report poaching and forest arson for a reward, or just because their concerned, he said.

"Acts of vandalism against Department of Conservation land also apply," he continued. "If anyone has witnessed or heard information about someone vandalizing or littering a Conservation Area, they could earn compensation for their information through Operation Game Thief."

That telephone number is 1 (800) 392-1111 and can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Violations may also be reported to Pettit by calling (573) 888-0578, or by calling any police agency.

Conservation areas are bought and maintained with the idea of providing the public with a safe, nice and educational place to spend time, said Pettit.

"Not only do acts of vandalism cause damage and a lot of extra work for the staff of the Department of Conservation, it also takes the department's funds, which are provided through tax dollars from citizens of Missouri, away from other projects and areas.

"It's really a no-win situation for everyone concerned," he concluded.

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