Vandalism in Little Falls ‘getting out of hand’

Damage and graffiti found in nearly every city park

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

A maple tree limb broken during a recent vandalism spree in Le Bourget Park.

From snapping off tree branches, to graffiti, throwing picnic tables into the Mississippi, destroying property and burning holes in a dock, vandalism has run rampant in Little Falls city parks this summer.

Also included in the vandals’ sights have been local cemeteries — Calvary and St. Mary’s. The Knights of Columbus set up banners and they were either shredded or stolen.

“It’s been a whole string of vandalism all summer long,” said Little Falls Police Chief Greg Schirmers.

It was discovered Wednesday that someone had burned a hole in the dock in Le Bourget Park, put up last year by the West Side Improvement Association (WSIA) with help from the two local Lions organizations.

“They had to have used oil or something to make it burn,” said Schirmers.

The dock the West Side Improvement Association worked and raised money to put up in Le Bourget Park was damaged this week when someone burned a hole through the decking. In addition, the framework under another portion of the decking was damaged, making it unsafe, and a newly-placed sign was torn down for the second time.

Someone, or several people, must have jumped up and down on the decking, damaging the framework beneath, he said.

The sign on the dock that was recently replaced had also been ripped down again.

“The sign hadn’t even been paid for yet,” said Chuck Volbert of the city’s Parks Department. He had finished removing graffiti from the kiosk the day before.

While vandalism has occurred at Maple Island Park, with the bathroom doors being kicked in, picnic tables thrown into the Mississippi River, Le Bourget has been the most recent target, right down to its light posts and trees.

A light post, a replica of the historic street lights in downtown Little Falls, paid for by the WSIA, was literally broken off, now replaced by an orange cone to prevent injury. Branches on paper birch and maple trees have been cut off, broken off and in one case notched, leaving a danger for anyone who may sit beneath it.

Trees in Le Bourget Park have also been targeted by vandals, with some people bringing in saws to cut limbs off, or simply breaking them off. The branch pictured was notched, making it dangerous for anyone who happened to be under the tree. Chuck Volbert of the Little Falls Parks Department said the vandalism has been going on all summer long in city parks.

“They came with a saw and sawed the limbs off of trees,” Volbert said.

Graffiti on the picnic tables was vulgar. Volbert said city staff removes graffiti as soon as they find it, or it is reported.

The picnic tables in Maple Island Park that were thrown into the river were retrieved by the Morrison County Sheriff’s Water Patrol — one near Pike Creek and another near Swan River.

“This is ridiculous and getting out of hand,” said Schirmers. “Taxpayers should be furious; it’s their tax dollars being wasted because of vandalism.”

He called the vandalism “random,” showing up at various times during the week and summer.

Schirmers said countless staff hours and officer hours, as well as costs to replace broken and damaged items is well over $1,000, not including what it will cost to replace the light post.

An electrical box at Jaycee Park was also ripped apart, and will be expensive to replace, he said.

City parks are closed to the public after 10 p.m. Schirmers said anyone who sees suspicious activity or people in city parks, is asked to call the Police Department, (320) 616-5570.