Vandals cause thousands in damage at Busch Conservation Area
Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:23am — jerekj
ST. CHARLES Mo — Vandals wreaked havoc at a popular St. Charles County Conservation Area over the weekend, costing Missouri taxpayers thousands of dollars and depriving thousands of St. Louis area archery enthusiasts of a much-used practice facility.
The static archery range on the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area was severely vandalized last Sunday. As a result, it will be closed until further notice, pending major repairs.
The incident occurred sometime between sundown Sunday, Oct. 17 and Monday morning, Oct. 18. A volunteer shutting down the range Sunday evening reported all was normal. By 9 a.m. Monday morning, Conservation staff had received a call from an area user informing them of the destruction.
First to survey the damage was Busch Shooting Range Supervisor Eric Edwards. “We’ve had some minor vandalism over the years,” Edwards acknowledged, “but this was nothing that we expected.”
All 10 structures holding archery targets were torn from their 4X4 wooden posts and left lying overturned on the ground. Steps leading up to an elevated platform were ripped away. Several signs were torn down, as was the bow-holding station. A number of picnic tables were also overturned.
Edwards estimates the damage will cost as much as $7,000 in material and staff time to repair. The money must be taken from the Conservation Department’s operating budget, the majority of which is funded by Missouri sales tax revenue.
The St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department was notified immediately. Their Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Team conducted a complete survey of the site on Monday, which included collecting photographs and physical evidence. According to the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department, the incident is classified as felony property damage and is under active investigation.
The vandalism has rendered the static archery range unusable and it will be closed until clean up and repairs can be completed. With firearms deer season opening Nov. 13, Edwards said the shooting range staff is already stretched thin. As a result, repair work will not begin until December. “Our goal is to have it up and running again by the first of the year,” he said.
In the meantime, one of the broad-head archery pits located at the Busch firearms shooting range has been converted for field-tip use and will be open free of charge. As an alternative, archery shooters may use the static and 3-D walk-through archery facilities at the Department’s Jay Henges Shooting Range, located at I-44 and Antire Road in High Ridge. Kessler Memorial Conservation Area in Lincoln County north of Troy offers an unstaffed static archery range as well.
Edwards said he was impressed by the amount of public support. As word has gotten out about the incident, a growing number of archery enthusiasts have come forward to offer their help to rebuild the facility. Weather permitting, a work day is being scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 2, to begin the clean up process. Interested members of the public are invited to help. Volunteers are encouraged to call 636-451-4554.
Edwards said he was frustrated by what he referred to as a “senseless and pointless” act of vandalism. “I kept asking why,” he said. “It does nothing but take away a nice area that was free and open to the public.”
He added the facility is used by 35,000-45,000 people each year.
Anyone with information regarding the vandalism at the Busch archery range is encouraged to call the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department at 636-949-0809, and ask for the Detective Bureau.
The main entrance to the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area is located of Highway D, approximately two miles west of Highway 94 in St. Charles County. The 6,987-acre area is owned and managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.