Rare, endangered trees targeted by vandals at Boone Co. Arboretum

BOONE CO., KY (FOX19) - The Boone County Arboretum, made up of more than 3,500 trees and shrubs, is a place of peace for many in the community, but now, instead of taking in the beauty, someone is taking to the trees and defacing them.

The property off Camp Ernst Road, also known as Central Park, is a popular spot designed for education and relaxation.

"An arboretum or botanical garden is basically a museum of plants," Kristopher Stone, the director, said.

The small staff, often with help from volunteers, maintains the thousands of plants and trees, day in and day out.

"Really a sense of accomplishment and pride comes into play," Chris Selm, the curator, said.

Not surprisingly, the crew was disgusted to learn that vandalism has reared its ugly head inside the park not once or twice, but several times.

"We were in disbelief," Stone said.

The culprits are taking it upon themselves to chop off chunks of trees.

"It seems they were using some kind of printing saw or hand saw, so obviously they came in with some kind of intent," Selm said.

The vandals have sliced and disfigured a willow tree, an oak tree and most recently, an endangered dawn redwood. The employees said they can't understand what would motivate someone to do that.

"It's really confusing and mind-boggling," Selm said. "You go through the stages of grief, kind of."

"It's like a knife to the heart," Stone said. "The staff who work here love this place, and this [redwood] tree, we've watched it grow for 15 years."

Stone said the redwood tree will never look the same. When the leaves grow back, there will be a gaping hole in the canopy.

"It can be hard to take sometimes, especially with a specimen like this that's rare, hard to find, and that you're really proud of having in your collection," Selm said.

Stone said that someone has stolen shrubs from the arboretum too. The good news is that the team is getting a lot of support from the community.

"Help us keep an eye on the arboretum," Stone said. "Help us further instill respect for and appreciation for the arboretum."

Staff members are asking anyone who sees something unusual to let them know.

If employees are working on a plant or tree, Stone said they will typically have a golf cart or a vehicle and equipment with them.

Stone also said sheriff's deputies patrol the park

For now, staff members are trying to focus on upcoming projects and fundraisers such as the Growing Forward campaign that will help them have directional signs for the arboretum placed on busy interstates.

They are also working on getting a mobile learning laboratory called the Arboretum on Wheels that would travel to local schools as an educational resource.

The arboretum is also an option for school field trips.

You can learn more about the arboretum on the website or Facebook page.

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