Vandals strike at Fontenelle Forest property

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A property donated to Fontenelle Forest is becoming a magnet for trouble.

The Neale Woods Nature Center in north Omaha sat empty until recent years because it's secluded and had many break-ins. The most recent incident happened on Tuesday morning.

About $2,000 worth of security measures were recently put into place, but that didn't stop four people from kicking in the door.

Officials who run the facility have asked community members to keep an eye out.

"What they're doing is not something that they can do in secret any longer," Executive Director Merica Whitehall said.

Tuesday's intruders didn't take anything. The broke the door, unplugged the cameras and set off a fire extinguisher. Mostly, the looked around.

Facility supervisor Dan Borgaila is the one who has to keep fixing the damage.

"It was very disheartening, very said. You know, kind of a roller coaster of emotions between mad and upset," he said.

Barber is the resident artist at Neale Woods and caught the group leaving the property. He said that the irony is that for a portion of the day anyone is welcome to stop by.

"I have an open studio. So they are more than welcome to come in and visit," Barber said.

Officials said that the vandals aren't only detracting from Fontenelle Forest, but they're also stealing from the community.

The non-profit can't afford to continue replacing doors and windows.

While officials hope the people are held responsible, they encourage those who are curious to simply knock on the door and visit instead of breaking in.

At one point, break-ins and vandalism were so bad that a whole structure had to be torn down. A smaller home stood on the property, but Fontenelle Forest decided to remove it entirely due to the vandals.

There will be a full-time ranger posted near the other building. Officials are hopeful that will deter people from continuing to break in.