Makoshika Park has seen a recent spate of vandalism

Jason Stuart
Sunday, February 2, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

Vandalism in Makoshika State Park has been fairly minimal in recent years, but a spate of recent incidents is frustrating park officials.

There have been three incidents of vandalism in Makoshika in little over a month, according to park manager Chris Dantic. That’s a veritable crime spree compared to recent years, as Dantic noted vandalism in Makoshika during his tenure has been “very limited,” especially compared to what he’s seen in other state parks.

“I always brag about this park because we don’t get the vandalism,” Dantic said. “I’ve worked in 10 other parks, and I’ve always been very proud that we don’t get the vandalism I saw at those other parks.”

Unfortunately over the past month or so, vandals have caused all kinds of trouble in Makoshika.

The first incident occurred on Dec. 7, 2019, when park staff making the rounds discovered that someone had pulled off-road near the amphitheater’s overflow parking area and “tore up all the grass” by doing “donuts” with their truck. The damage done to the native, protected prairie was exacerbated by the fact that it was done on a 50-degree day with melting snow, creating large, deep ruts in the ground. The culprit also tore up another area of the park by the same method.

“They also went to campsite #20 and did the same thing there,” Dantic said.

The next incident came on Jan. 19 at campsite #22, which is currently gated and closed off. However that did not stop someone from going around the gate with their truck and “tearing up all the grass,” Dantic said.

In that instance, the culprit’s actions were seen by another park visitor, who reported the incident to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, who then called in Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Cameron Wischhusen. The warden was able to track down the suspect, who ended up admitting what they had done. Wischhusen said that “based on the circumstances,” he issued the culprit two written warnings. ing to Dantic.

“It’s just odd. We don’t normally get situations like this,” he said. “My team usually can come to work and not have to worry about things like this and then we get three of them in a month. It’s frustrating and it’s very odd.”

Dantic said he can’t put a dollar figure on the damage done to the park in these incidents, but he said the biggest annoyance about them is they take up his and his employees time, distracting them from the business of running the park and helping visitors.

“It’s more manpower than anything,” Dantic said. “That’s the thing about vandalism, you’re taking time out of our day when we could be doing our job. It’s frustrating.”

Wischhusen also noted that besides causing damage and taking up the time of park employees, people who vandalize Makoshika and other public lands are negatively impacting everyone else who uses those public lands as well as disrespecting the public trust.

“It’s just kind of disrespectful as much as anything. This vandalism that’s been going on, it’s minimal, but it is impacting the park, and it impacts everybody in the community when you do so,” Wischhusen said. “The park belongs to the public, so when you do that, you’re really vandalizing your own public property.”

Anyone who witnesses an act of vandalism in Makoshika or other state public lands in the area can contact Wischhusen directly to report it at 406-853-7500.

The third incident occurred this past weekend on Jan. 26. Park ranger Sue Veroye arrived at work on Monday and went out to make her rounds through the park when she came across two barricades which had been moved out of the park campground and set up in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. The electrical breaker boxes for the campground also showed evidence of an attempt to tamper with them, as they had been left open. The vandals also pushed over a full trashcan at the group use pavilion and also flipped over two of the picnic tables.

“And those (picnic tables) are pretty heavy, so you know it was more than just one person,” Dantic said.

To have three incidents of vandalism in Makoshika in such a short timespan is really out of the ordinary, accord-

“It’s more manpower than anything. That’s the thing about vandalism, you’re taking time out of our day when we could be doing our job. It’s frustrating,”
Chris Dantic, Makoshika State Park manager