Rock Island State Park officials are reminding visitors that it’s illegal to remove plants or other items from the park after two people entered guilty pleas Tuesday in connection with taking over 100 trees from park property.
Warren County residents Andy Ray Elrod and Connie June Morton, both 56, entered guilty pleas in front of General Sessions Judge Bill Locke to violating state park rules and regulations. They were given one year of probation and ordered to make $810 restitution.
“Everything is protected in a state park,” said Rock Island State Park manager Damon Graham. “It’s theft, even though we didn’t charge them with that. You can’t remove plants, animals, rocks, anything at all from a state park. Everything on public land is protected.”
Graham said he noticed a bundle of pawpaw trees lying on the ground in a remote area of the park and decided to monitor that spot. He said he was able to sneak up on Elrod and Morton and catch them with over 100 trees in their possession.
Graham noted the trees can be sold to local nurseries which then let them grow for a few years and sell them for a higher dollar amount. He said ginseng is also a common plant targeted by thieves to dig up from someone else’s property.