Vandals targeting trees in city parks

Vandalism is an ongoing issue for Great Falls Park and Recreation.

The worst damage is typically in the springtime, according to Park and Rec, in the form of damage to restrooms, playgrounds, trees and graffiti.

The vandalism costs the Park and Rec department thousands of dollars annually.

Recently, vandals have damaged more than 40 trees, with some being memorial trees, in recent years.

Memorial trees cost anywhere from $500-$800, according to Park and Rec.

The forestry division has removed 23 young trees and repair more than 20 additional trees due to vandalism in recent years, according to Park and Rec.

This week, there was a report of a memorial tree being cut down for construction in Lions Park, but the tree was removed because it had been vandalized, according to Park and Rec.

“If a memorial tree must be removed, the department attempts to contact the donor and inform them of the situation. In some cases, current contact information is unavailable, and staff cannot reach the affected families,” according to Park and Rec.

The city’s memorial and donation form includes the city policy for donations, which includes the following provision: “the Park and Recreation Department is not responsible for theft, vandalism, or displacement of memorials and other various donated park amenities, including trees, benches, plaques, etc.”

The form and policy are available on the city website.

Steve Herrig, Park and Rec director, told The Electric that Lions Park and Elks Riverside Park had been hit the hardest with tree vandalism over the last year.

Herrig said he’s been in contact with the Lions Club to see if they’ll contribute to the cost of replacing the vandalized trees in Lions Park.

“We understand the emotional impact on the family is tremendous when a memorial tree has to be removed due to vandalism,” Herrig said in a release. “Overall, it is crucial to address vandalism in the parks to ensure that they remain safe and beautiful public spaces for everyone to enjoy.”

Herrig told The Electric that the department had made the Great Falls Police Department aware of the vandalism.

“Preventing vandalism and protecting trees in the park is an ongoing process that requires the cooperation and support of the community,” according to a Park and Rec release.

Community members are asked to report any suspicious activities or vandalism in the parks by calling the Park and Recreation Office at 406-771-1256 during business hours.

For after-hour reports, leave a message, and the issue will be addressed the following business day.

For urgent after-hour concerns, contact GFPD at 406-455-8599.