AFTON, Minn., July 6 (UPI) -- Vandals took advantage of the government shutdown in Minnesota to trash closed state parks during the July 4 holiday weekend, police officials said.
Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said Tuesday the most serious damage was at Afton State Park, east of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, where 12 people were taken into custody for allegedly damaging three buildings and taking items from them, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Wednesday.
Vandals also struck dozens of other state properties in Minnesota, Jim Konrad, head of enforcement for the Department of Natural Resources, said.
The state government shut down Friday, the start of the state's fiscal year, after lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton failed to reach agreement on a new budget.
"This is just exactly the type of thing we're going to be seeing repeatedly as the shutdown goes forward," said Steve Morse, a former lawmaker and DNR deputy commissioner who is Minnesota Environmental Partnership executive director. "It shows once again how difficult it is to extricate the state from our lives, and the problems that are going to come to light once something like this happens."
At Afton State Park, deputies arrested a dozen people who allegedly caused thousands of dollars in damage to park buildings and stole park property.
"Would this have occurred if the state government hadn't shut down? Absolutely not," Hutton said. "Those buildings would have been rented out, and park personnel would have been there going about their business."
Konrad said reports from across Minnesota ranged from people illegally driving into the closed parks to locks being cut to secured gates being pulled from concrete moorings, the Star Tribune said.
"Someone took spray paint and added a body part to the Smokey Bear sign" at the DNR area office in Grand Marais, Konrad said.