Plants stolen from reservoir overlook

Volunteers devote hours every week beautifying area

Staff writer

When someone dug up and took plants from an overlook at the south end of the Marion Reservoir dam, they weren’t just stealing some flowers, Park Ranger Traci Robb said. They were stealing the hard work of volunteers and the enjoyment of visitors.

“It makes me feel kind of violated,” volunteer Sandi Patterson said.

Patterson maintains the overlook with her husband, Dean Patterson. They live at Hillsboro Cove year-round.

“They haven’t just taken from us,” she said. “They took from all the visitors.”

In three incidents, people dug up and took four sedums, four hostas, two bushes, five cone flowers, and five “Black and Blue” salvia plants, Robb said. The first theft was early in the growing season, and the most recent was sometime during the weekend of June 18 through 20. Volunteers watered the plants June 18 and saw they were gone June 20.

“Can’t you leave something nice for people to enjoy?” Robb asked.

The plants at the overlook are maintained entirely with volunteer labor, she said. Some volunteers even donated plants. Most of the reservoir’s funding is earmarked for flood mitigation projects, so money for landscaping isn’t often available.

Because the overlook is exposed to wind and sun, it takes a lot of effort to maintain the plants, Robb said. The Pattersons each spend 10 to 12 hours weeding and watering every week, Patterson said.

“We always get flowers that attract butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds,” she said. “They’re for everyone to enjoy.”

She said the thefts upset her, not just for herself, but also for the visitors to the reservoir.

A couple from Hutchinson that comes to the area to visit a mother in a nursing home eats lunch at the overlook every Friday, she said.

“They didn’t realize just how much it affected not just my husband and me; they affected everybody,” Patterson said of the offenders.

In all three incidents, the plants weren’t pulled or dug up by animals, Robb said. The holes left behind clearly were made with a shovel.

Because there were three incidents, she suspects someone local stole the plants. Reservoir staff plan to try new surveillance techniques, but Robb wouldn’t elaborate on the details.

The Corps of Engineers is investigating the thefts. Anyone with information can call the Marion Reservoir project office at (620) 382-2101, and they can give the information anonymously, Robb said.

 

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