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Vandals strike Oakwood Lake Park

Oxford Twp. Parks Superintendent Jeff Kinasz examines a damaged trail marker at Oakwood Lake Township Park. Someone used a truck to knock the wooden sign over, busting its posts. It will cost $200-$300 to repair and re-install it, according to Kinasz. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
August 24, 2011 - Once again, vandals have struck a peaceful Oxford Township park and once again, park officials are asking for the public's help to identify and apprehend the culprits.

This time the victim is Oakwood Lake Township Park, a 300-acre spread of pristine woods, lakes and wetlands located on Oakwood Rd., east of Metamora Rd.

Over the weekend, someone used their truck – judging by the tire tracks – to knock over and destroy a trail marker, do donuts in the grass and ram the park's inner chain link gates until the metal posts were bent to the point they need to be replaced. It also appears a shotgun was fired at the park's main sign as it's riddled with holes from birdshot.

"You come in Monday morning and that's the first thing you see – it's not a good way to start your week," said Parks Superintendent Jeff Kinasz. "It kind of gets you down."

The damaged inner gates are always closed and locked to prevent motorized vehicles from driving on the park's hiking trails.

"It's going to get to the point where we might consider closing the park," Kinasz said. "You don't want to close the park, but that's what's in the back of your mind. It would be easy to close the park down, but then all the people who enjoy it wouldn't be able to anymore. That's the sad part. It only takes one to ruin it for everybody."

Kinasz explained there's no way to secure the park during the overnight hours when it's technically closed. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. year-round.

"We don't have the means to go up there every night and lock it up," he said. "We don't have staff that work at night."

Dollar-wise, this weekend's damage will cost the parks department about $1,500 to repair the gate and $200-$300 to repair and re-install the trail marker. Kinasz based his estimate to repair the gate on the fact that the same thing happened in the spring and that was the cost to fix it.

"We want to make people aware that this is going on in their parks and it's costing us a lot of money," he said.

Kinasz said the vandalism at Oakwood Lake Park has been happening for about three years now.

In the past, vandals have cut the gate's lock and chain with bolt-cutters, driven vehicles on the hiking trails in order to tear them up, shot at the park sign with firearms, destroyed picnic tables and stolen trash cans.

"We've tried to have picnic tables out here, but they'd drive on top of them and crush them," Kinasz said. "If they don't want the garbage cans, they drive on those and flatten them."

As always, a report's been filed with the Oakland County Sheriff's Department and investigators were at the park on Monday obtaining and examining evidence at the scene.

Anyone with any knowledge of these incidents or who witnesses anything suspicious at the park is asked to please immediately call the sheriff's department at either 248-858-4950 (Pontiac dispatch) or 248-969-3077 (Oxford Twp. substation).

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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