A criminal investigation has been launched after Villagers cut down trees in a protected wetland at Lake Deaton.
Community Development District 10 supervisors were briefed on the situation and shown drone footage of the destruction at their Thursday afternoon meeting at Savannah Center.
“I am at a loss for words,” said CDD 10 Chairman Don Wiley. “Seeing this devastation, it’s completely irresponsible.”
Residents and possibly hired landscaping contractors apparently climbed a fence and cut down Scrub Oaks and Cypress trees on District-owned land.
A Department of Property Management supervisor discovered the illicit activity, including ladders and tools left behind which indicated both “resident and contractor activity.”
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the removal of the trees.
This incident has conjured up painful memories of the cutting down of trees in late 2014 in the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona. Original estimates for remediation of the area came in at nearly $50,000 and would have been paid by the Project Wide Advisory Committee, which is funded through residents’ maintenance assessment fees collected south of County Road 466. There were no arrests in the case, but public pressure was sufficient enough to spur unnamed residents of Bridgeport at Lake Miona, represented by a law firm, to offer up a $25,788 check to begin the restoration process. The group called itself the “Friends of Lake Miona.”
What happened at Bridgeport at Lake Miona was “not nearly as pervasive as this,” Baier said.
The cutting at Lake Deaton is far worse than what occurred at Lake Miona.
It appears that the trees at Lake Deaton, as was the case in the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona, were removed to enhance the homeowners’ view.
District Manager Richard Baier said a letter will be sent to homeowners in the Lake Deaton area advising them that cutting trees and foliage is not permitted and access to the District-owned land is restricted. The District will be working over the next several months with regulatory agencies to understand the depth of the damage and the steps that will need to be taken to bring the District back into compliance with its permit.
Residents who don’t live anywhere near Lake Deaton will likely share in the expense of correcting the problem.
That angered Supervisor Steve Bova.
“We need to send a message,” he said.