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Video: Reward for cherry tree vandals now $2,000

Sep. 23, 2013
 
Seaquist Orchards
Seaquist Orchards: The Door County Sheriff's Department is still searching for the person or persons responsible for shearing the tops off 639 cherry tree saplings at Seaquist Orchards outside Sister Bay. Samantha Hernandez/Door County Advocate
A clean cut at the trunk indicates a pruning lopper was the tool of the vandal(s) of the 4-foot-high saplings that were planted in the spring. The white tape is protection against rodents. / Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate
Jim Seaquist stands in a row of cherry tree saplings that were severed at the top of the white tree protection wraps overnight Sept.18 or during the day Sept. 19 at Seaquist Orchards in Ellison Bay. Most of the trees in the background were chopped off. Some 639 trees were cut off about 15 inches above ground. / Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate

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The Door County Sheriff’s Department on Monday doubled the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for cutting down of 639 cherry tree saplings at a Sister Bay orchard.

Sometime between 5 p.m. Sept. 18 and 5 p.m. the following evening, about 15 percent of Seaquist Orchard’s Montmorency cherry saplings, along Wisconsin 42 outside Sister Bay, were cut about 1 foot from the ground with what appears to be pruning loppers. The tops of the trees were left lying next to the stumps.

According to co-owner Jim Seaquist, his stepbrother Zach Moore had walked his dog in the orchard the evening of Sept. 18 and nothing was amiss. Around 5 p.m. the next day Seaquist’s son, Cole, called him about the downed trees. That particular orchard contained 4,200 trees that had been planted this past spring. The Seaquists have additional orchards in Sister Bay, Sturgeon Bay and Egg Harbor.

“That is helpful” to have that time line, he said.

By Friday, the Seaquist family had taken to Facebook offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible and asking for anyone with leads to contact the Door County Sheriff’s Department. On Monday the sheriff’s department added $1,000 to the reward.

Seaquist had a mix of emotions about seeing the “brand new little babies” cut down.

“I guess just really shocked. That there is anybody that could do that,” he said.

In several places there are only rows of white tree protectors, and in other spots it looks as if someone wove through the orchard cutting trees. It takes six years for a cherry tree to bear fruit.

“They will not grow back as low as they were cut,” Seaquist said. Come spring those 639 trees will have to be replanted. He estimates the vandalism will cost the orchard around $20,000 and will set that orchard back a year.

By his estimate it would have taken a single person between five to six hours to cut down the approximately 5 acres of trees.

In the past Seaquist has had trees damaged by people running over them while driving in the orchard and has even had trees stolen. It’s uncertain at this time whether the act of cutting down the trees was vandalism or some kind of retaliation.

Since the orchard went public about the vandalism, it has been receiving widespread media attention and calls from people lending their support.

He’s confident that “somebody is going to say something about this.”

“I feel sorry for whoever did this. Something is wrong with their logic,” said his father, Dale Seaquist, as he and his son stood out in the orchard surveying the damage.

The Door County Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate the incident.

“We do have some information coming in,” Sheriff Terry Vogel said Monday.

The person or person involved could possibly be charged with felony criminal damage to property among other charges, Vogel said.

He is urging anyone who has information on this “senseless act of vandalism” to contact the department at (920) 746-2400.

Contact Samantha Hernandez at svhernande@doorcountyadvocate.com or (920) 743-3321, Ext. 112.

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