PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve, which offers spectacular scenes of wildlife aloft and oysters below, is now the scene of a crime.
Kayaks, 14 of them, appeared to weep alongside what used to be the Creek Side Lab for children. Last Friday, someone torched the lab, leaving melted kayaks and charred debris that is unrecognizable.
“Our kayaking program, our water monitoring program, and our student oyster restoration program it’s a total loss,” said Executive Director Ashley Morgan in an interview outside the caution tape that now surrounds what was once a cherished destination for children who want to learn about saving precious resources around the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Morgan tells 10 On Your Side a resident on the Suffolk side of the preserve alerted authorities in Portsmouth. There are no known witnesses or surveillance videos, as charred leaves high above the crime scene measured the size of the inferno.
“If anyone saw any suspicious activity we would love for them to let us know. It was Friday, August 11; something between 4:30 and 11 p.m.,” said Morgan, who added there have been no incidents or threats related to the preserve.
The trail destruction ends at the Creak Side Lab, but it appears the preserve’s one-mile walking trail is where the damage begins. At least a half dozen benches, built by Boy Scouts, were dumped in Lake Ballard. Summer intern Ashawne Edwards, a senior at Old Dominion University, is stunned and disappointed.
Regina Mobley: Someone plucked a bench from the trail and dragged it all the way down to the lake. That took some effort.
Ashawne Edwards: I don’t know why they went through all that trouble just to cause some senseless damage.
The 142-acre preserve is still assessing the damage. The kayaks alone are valued at $14,000. While the crime is under investigation, the mission of the preserve remains the same.
“The trails are open so we welcome the public to come take a hike, have a picnic, and enjoy the rest of the preserve,” Morgan said.
If you know the person or persons who destroyed portions of the preserve, Morgan asks that you call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP. If you desire to help the non-profit rebuild the damaged areas, contact at 757-686-8684, or you can donate via the preserve’s website.