Vandals target Lock 7 improvements in Okeechobee

Black marks mar the new sidewalk at Lock 7 where vandals drove on the sidewalk and "burned" the vehicle's tires.

Black marks mar the new sidewalk at Lock 7 where vandals drove on the sidewalk and “burned” the vehicle’s tires.

OKEECHOBEE — The new Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail comfort station at Lock 7 has not yet been officially completed, and it is already the target of vandalism.

The Florida Department of Transportation spent $855,000 to add a handicapped-accessible walkway from the trail on the top of the Herbert Hoover Dike to the pier area, as well as bathrooms, sidewalks and a drinking fountain. The FDOT project paved 68 parking spaces near the pier and added grass between the parking spaces and the lake.

The new project is expected to be officially opened later this month, and the parking spaces are already in use.

Donnie Oden, Okeechobee County director of facilities services, said county officials are disappointed that the new construction has already been vandalized.

“They have been spinning donuts in the grass with their vehicles, beating and bending up the new water cooler, driving on the sidewalks and burning rubber on the sidewalks,” he said.

“Somehow, we’ve got to stop it,” he said.

vandals targe lock 7 2

The county plans to install guardrails to keep vehicles off the grass and security cameras to help catch the vandals.

“We’ve always had some vandalism at the parks,” said Mr. Oden. “We’ve had issues before at this facility. But we didn’t expect to see it so soon.”

The trail on the dike is popular with local residents. The paved parking benefits those who want to take advantage of the new walkway ramp to access the trail and those who want to visit the pier.

Mr. Oden is asking for the community’s help to stop the vandalism.

“We hope people who use that facility will start watching it and will report it if they see someone vandalizing it,” he said.

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