Tontitown Could Offer Reward In Tree Poisoning Case
The Tontitown city government plans to offer a reward to catch whoever poisoned dozens of trees in the city’s park.
Aldermen voted Thursday to recommend the City Council authorize town officials to accept donations toward a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever poisoned the town’s trees.
The City Council must vote to accept the recommendation next Tuesday for the measure to be official.
As many as 50 trees in Harry Sbanotto Park will likely die because of a strong herbicide that town officials say restricts trees’ ability to carry out photosynthesis.
If no one is arrested and convicted after the city compiles the reward money, officials will put the money toward park improvements, said Mayor Tommy Granata.
Park maintenance crews first noticed dead spots in the grass under and between trees this spring. They also found small white pellets of a high-strength herbicide called Spike 80DF.
Ken Bailey, the city’s building inspector, and other town officials believe someone dumped about 70 pounds of the pellets at the base of most of the park’s trees during the fall or winter. The spring rains soaked the herbicide into the trees’ roots, he said.
The herbicide’s presence in a tree’s root system practically guarantees the tree will die, according to the Arkansas State Plant Board.
Many of the trees affected are more than 100 years old, Bailey said.
Likely unable to save the trees, the Tontitown City Council turned its attention earlier this month to securing reward money to be given to anyone who helps the city solve the mystery of who poisoned the trees of Harry Sbanotto Park.
Authorities have no suspects, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The city will have to remove the trees and plant new ones, robbing the park of the shade and natural scenery the patch of land has had since the town was founded in 1898. The project could cost upward of $70,000, not counting how much it would cost to replace the poisoned dirt, Bailey said.
A police report lists the crime as first-degree criminal mischief, a felony when there is more than $500 in damages.