48 trees felled on Carroll Co. parkland 4 teen-agers suspected of using chain saws to build bike ramp in woods

August 12, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Four Westminster teen-agers are suspected of illegally felling 48 trees in the name of development.

Police accuse the teens of designing and building a large bike ramp in a wooded area of Middlebrooke, a community of ranchers and townhouses a mile south of downtown.

After selecting a remote site with plenty of wood, vandals destroyed the neighborhood's open space, leaving scores of stumps -- some nearly 5 feet tall -- where once there was dense forest, police said.

In police lingo, that's malicious destruction of property -- a crime that carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.

'A serious offense'

"In the minds of the youths, it may not appear to be [a crime], but destroying 48 trees is a serious offense," said Lt. Randy Barnes, spokesman for the Westminster Police Department.

Police expect to file charges within the next week, he said. Barnes would not identify the suspects, who are ages 15, 16, 18 and 19.

"Before we can file charges, we have to determine who the victim is and the total value of the damage," Barnes said.

It was not clear yesterday who owns the land. It could be the city, county or Middlebrooke Homeowners Association.

"I'll have to go back to my office and check the plat to determine who the owner is," said Bob Kimmel, manager of grounds for the Carroll County Department of Recreation, Parks and Facilities. He visited Middlebrooke yesterday to survey the ramp.

"I don't recall seeing anything like this built before," said Kimmel, who oversees 6,000 to 7,000 acres of county-owned property. "We've had dirt-bike damage, buildings vandalized and ballparks torn up -- but nothing like this."

Police alerted

Residents of Middlebrooke said they learned about the makeshift ramp last week, when a neighbor heard someone using a chain saw in the woods and called police. Most people had been unaware of the activity in their back yards. The noise of the chain saw had been muffled by the hum of air conditioners.

When Officer Amiee Lau arrived in the wooded area behind Bishop Court at about 6 p.m. Friday, she found the four suspects standing by a stack of logs several feet high and covered with dirt and branches.

The structure was being used as a bike ramp. A chain saw, rake, shovel and wheelbarrow were nearby, said police spokesman Barnes.

"They told Officer Lau that they had been working for three or four days, removing trees to build a bike ramp," Barnes said.

Soda cans and an old knit hat lie in what is now a muddy clearing full of stumps. In the center are the ramp and several mounds of dirt -- a jerry-built obstacle course.

"Kids have been going back there as long as I can remember," said neighbor Neil MacGregor, 49, who has lived in Middlebrooke for 18 years. "But this was a shock. All those beautiful trees are gone. And for what?"

Punishment suggested

Members of the homeowners association, which represents 188 houses in Middlebrooke, said they want the culprits to pay for the damage they've caused and clean up their mess.

Said MacGregor: "The people that are responsible should have to do community service for a long, long time."

Pub Date: 8/12/98

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