Rash of vandalism hits MTNF properties

Vandals painted hate symbols on the brand new entrance sign to Berryman Campground during late-June.  Such vandalism can leave bad impressions of the national forest and surrounding area, especially to visitors coming from outside the local area.  Annually, over 6,000 people come to Washington and Crawford counties from distant places to participate in competitive trail events on the Ozark Trail and Berryman National Recreation Trail; the events often use Berryman Campground as a starting point.

by Becky Ewing

District Ranger for the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District

Vandalism occurring on Mark Twain National Forest hurts the Forest Service, taxpayers, visitors, and local economies.  Summer is in full swing and a lot of visitors are expected to be enjoying national forest trails and recreation areas around the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District; but, recent vandalism has put a damper on this festive atmosphere. 

Public lands can play a role in stimulating local employment by providing opportunities for recreation.  Communities adjacent to public lands can benefit economically from visitors who spend money in hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and gift shops.  Data from the U. S. Department of Commerce (specifically the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns) show that about 14 percent of jobs in the counties containing the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District are in travel and tourism related industries—which provide goods and services to visitors to the local economy, as well as to the local population.  It is interesting to note that Mark Twain National Forest visitors not only come from local areas, but they also travel from afar.  It is not uncommon to find hiker sign-in cards at Bell Mountain Wilderness trailheads showing that visitors came here from other states, and even from international locations.

Knowing that summer is the time for us to shine and make a good impression on visitors to the Mark Twain National Forest and the local communities, the recent rash of vandalism on the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District is disappointing.

The wave of vandalism started around Memorial Day at Council Bluff Lake, where a door on the new Chapel Hill Beach bathhouse was damaged.  The door was sprung from its frame with a tremendous amount of force.  Soon thereafter, the same type of damage was found at a Red Bluff Recreation Area bathroom building.  Parts are being ordered; but for now, the doors cannot be completely closed.

The entrance sign to Hazel Creek Recreation Area was also vandalized during Memorial Day weekend.  Someone shot the sign, and then a vehicle was used to bend the steel post.

Within the past couple weeks, the brand new entrance sign to Berryman Campground was vandalized.  Hate symbols were painted onto both sides of the Berryman sign with black paint, and then the vandals tried to remove the sign.  The extra paint they had was thrown onto the front of the sign.  

This type of vandalism can leave a bad impression on Mark Twain National Forest visitors, which could negatively affect return visits to the area.  In addition, repairs cost money.  Replacing the Hazel Creek sign will cost over $400, plus the cost of reinstalling it and the post.  The new Berryman sign cost $1,700 and has been up less than a year.  Such repair replacement costs were not planned in 

the Mark Twain National Forest budget, so instead, funds planned for picnic site upgrades had to be used.

As you enjoy the holiday and the summer with your family and friends, consider a visit to a Mark Twain National Forest trail, campground, or river.  Help us keep these public facilities safe and enjoyable for everyone - if you see something, say something!  If you witness vandalism or any other suspicious activity, please report it to law enforcement as soon as possible by dialing 911.  

Mark Twain National Forest is the largest public land manager in Missouri with 1.5 million acres in 29 counties in southern and central Missouri.  Follow us on twitter @marktwain_nf, and like us on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest.


Becky Ewing is a District Ranger for the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger Districts. She can be reached at 573-438-5427 from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F.)