James Farm target of break-in, vandalism

The James Farm Ecological Preserve, located on the Indian River Bay off of Cedar Neck Road near Ocean View, is open to the public, but some members of the public haven’t been treating the facility with much care of late.

According to E.J. Chalabala, wildlife manager for the Center for Inland Bays, which manages James Farm, an unknown person or persons recently stepped up the level of damage the preserve normally sees from vandalism and broke into two sheds that house CIB’s educational materials and the tools and equipment used to maintain the site.

“The educational shed, they pried into it and there was not much gone,” Chalabala said of the break-in overnight between Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 13 and 14, when a full moon lit the heavily wooded bayside spot. “I guess these hoodlums don’t like to learn anything.”

That minimal loss was not the case in the second shed, where Chalabala said the thieves stole more than $2,000 worth of tools and equipment.

The CIB is now looking for information that might lead to the arrest of the culprits in this week’s break-in and theft.

Chalabala said it is not unusual for James Farm to see a degree of vandalism, with people sometimes spray-painting messages on the preserve’s observation decks and trees or vandalizing informational signs and markers. But this year has been a particularly active one for vandals at James Farm.

“We’ve had the property since 1998, but this year is unusual,” Chalabala said. “Usually, every summer, we have people who paint the observation platforms, or use a knife to carve a message into them – but not really any hardcore destruction.”

Chalabala said the worst of previous damage included someone kicking out some of the boards on the observation platforms.

“But this year, they’re breaking into and spray painting a lot of stuff,” he said.

The James Farm Ecological Preserve is owned by Sussex County and managed by the CIB. Visitors are welcome to walk the nature trails every day – during daylight hours. It has two miles of hiking trails, three observation decks, an amphitheatre, a boardwalk dune crossing, open meadows, a mature upland forest and a sandy beach.

Anyone with information about the break-in, vandalism and theft at James Farm is being asked to call Delaware State Police Troop 7 at 644-5020.