Vandals damage cemetery grounds

OKEECHOBEE — Some people have no respect for the property of others — or, the dead.

This became quite evident Thursday morning when county employees showed up for work at the Evergreen Cemetery at 1116 N.E. 39th Blvd. where they found someone had pulled up and dragged away a hedge. The vandals also backed up to another hedge and tried to push it over, as well as a small tree. And, by doing all this they tore up the grass.

All of this damage was done by an all terrain vehicle (ATV) around the entrance to the cemetery sometime Wednesday night, July 12.

“We do have a problem out here. It’s been off and on in the past years, but in the last week or two it seems to have started up again,” explained Russell Rowland, assistant to the county administrator. “The damage last night was outside the gates and after hours. At this point we haven’t found any damage inside the gates.”

Mr. Rowland pointed out how vandals used the side-by-side ATV to pull up the hedge.

They then dragged it down the street to a small road leading to an Okeechobee Utility Authority water treatment plant. They then turned around and proceeded down the street toward R-Bar Estates.

“The shrub — roots and all — were pulled out of the ground,” noted Mr. Rowland.

He also pointed to another shrub where the vandal, or vandals, tried to push over the plant with their ATV. They did the same thing on the other side of the entrance where they tried to push over a small palm tree.

At this point, it appears that only one vehicle was involved.

Deputy Nathaniel Mitchell, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), took the complaint Thursday morning.

This isn’t the first time someone has vandalized a cemetery in the county.

Three to four weeks ago, pointed out Mr. Rowland, someone tore up turf inside the Evergreen Cemetery by “cutting donuts” with their vehicle. He explained the vandalism was done during the daytime when the gate was open and county employees were apparently working at another of the county’s cemeteries.

In February of this year, someone cut the fence at the cemetery in Fort Drum and stole a gate.

As he looked at the damage Thursday, Mr. Rowland indicated it wasn’t just replacing the stolen plant or putting down new sod that bothers him.

“It’s not going to cost that much to replace the plants,” he said. “It just the idea of destroying property at a cemetery — that’s pretty bad.

“It’s disrespectful to the people buried in the cemetery, and their families,” he added.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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