MASON CITY, Iowa – It’s a dispute that started with tree bark, and now, the story is making headlines. Two boys peeled bark off a tree at Roosevelt Elementary School, and are facing felony charges.
“We didn’t realize that it would be the magnitude that it was,” says parent of Devon Barkema, Stephanie Broege.
Her son and his stepbrother didn’t realize that peeling bark off a tree could kill it. On August 5th they were reported to authorities by a neighbor, and several days later an unexpected call came.
“Friday, at 9:45 p.m., we got a phone call saying we were supposed to bring our boys down to the police station to get them fingerprinted and mug shots taken. They were being charged with felony criminal mischief,” says parent of Parker Niles, Naomi Wells.
These moms were not prepared to have their sons face felony charges.
“Their thing is, they hear vandalism, they press charges,” says Broege.
Law enforcement tells us the severity of the charges is based on the dollar amount of the damaged property. Cutting Edge Tree Services provided an estimate of over $1,000 to remove and replace the tree.
“My experience has been, that when you remove the bark from the tree, the trees do die,” says owner and arborist, Kevin Hardy.
Hardy was not able to do the original estimate, and recently took a look for himself. He says the tree looks healthy, and could be an exception.
“If it were my tree in my front yard, I would keep it, until it dies,” says Hardy.
As for its value, Hardy says it isn’t worth a lot.
“Ask anyone throughout North America what the value of an ash tree is, and they’ll probably say it’s not a value, it’s a liability. Due to the threat of the emerald ash borer,” says Hardy.
Even with this second opinion, the school still plans to press charges. However, after a meeting with school officials on Wednesday, these parents are finding out that the charges could be less severe. School officials told the parents that they are willing to accept their bid for lower charges, and have them, potentially lowered to an aggravated misdemeanor.