MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Minnesota state parks closed at night since the government shutdown last week have reported numerous incidents of break-ins, vandalism burglary and graffiti, a state enforcement officer said on Wednesday.
The most extensive damage was reported at Afton State Park, where three buildings were broken into and items taken over the Fourth of July weekend, the Washington County sheriff said. Eleven adults and a juvenile were taken into custody.
“That’s definitely the worst we have seen,” said Jim Konrad, enforcement director for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “In most cases, the damage we have seen has been minor, but that one, by far, took the cake.”
State parks have reported widespread disregard for the shutdown by campers as well as spray-painted graffiti and locks cut from gates, Konrad said. The parks are open during the day for hiking and picnicking, but officially closed at night.
Gates at two campgrounds near Grand Rapids in northern Minnesota were yanked from concrete footings and people found camping or picnicking said they were simply taking advantage of the open entrances, Konrad said.
Restrooms and other facilities are closed and people have left uncollected garbage piling up outside overflowing receptacles at some access sites and day areas, Konrad said.
Very little of the damage would likely have happened if not for the state government shutdown and state parks officials expect to see incidents increase over weekends, Konrad said.
“We would have staff at all these sites,” Konrad said. “If they are open, there would have been more eyes to observe people doing things wrong and people to report them to.”
In Afton State Park, “those camper cabins would have been rented out. No one is going to break into them and destroy them when they are occupied,” Konrad said.
Reporting by David Bailey