Teens accused of ‘tree tackling’ at Pearl River tree farm, causing $6,000 in damage

It may be months before Christmas, but five teens allegedly decided to take down some trees early at the Shady Pond Tree Farm in Pearl River.

The teens, described as bored and under the influence of marijuana, embarked on “tree tackling” on two occasions this month, destroying 10 Christmas trees and damaging 53 others, authorities said Tuesday (Sept. 26). The damage is estimated at nearly $6,000.

Four of the five have been booked on various charges; the fifth was expected to turn himself in, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry said in a news release.

“I view it as an assault on our traditions,” farm owner Clarke Gernon said. “I view it as an assault on Christmas.

“What they were doing was beyond the boundaries that any reasonable person would have. “

St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputies responded to a complaint about the damage on Sept. 4 and found trees that were split in half and damaged to the point they would not survive. Agents with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry assisted with the investigation and deployed cameras throughout the farm, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Deputies responded to a second incident on Sept. 24, and agents checked the video, which showed the suspects wandering throughout the farm, the Sheriff’s Office said.

During interviews, investigators learned the act of destroying the trees is called “tree tackling.”

Two 16-year-olds, one from Carriere, Miss., and one from Pearl River, were arrested on charges of simple criminal damage to property between $1,000 and $50,000, which is a felony, two counts of criminal trespass, and one count of simple criminal damage to property under $1,000.

A 17-year-old from Pearl River was booked with simple criminal damage to property between $1,000 and $50,000, simple criminal damage to property under $1,000, two counts of criminal trespass, and  contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile

A 17-year-old from Lacombe was booked with simple criminal damage to property between $1,000 and $50,000, criminal trespass and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

The trees that were damaged or destroyed were of the Carolina sapphire variety, Gernon said. He described the variety as “stunningly beautiful,” carrying the scent of lemon and mint.

“Mutilating the trees may to some youngsters seem to be a harmless thing . . . when in truth, the trees are living things,” he said. “To mutilate a tree, for me, is only slightly less offensive than animal…

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