Juveniles charged with felonies for stripping bark from school’s tree

WTF?

MASON CITY | As law enforcement clicked the shutter, capturing an image of her child against a stark, white wall, Naomi Wells was in shock.

“There’s nothing worse than seeing my 13-year-old son turn right, left and front as his mug shot is taken,” she said.

Parker Niles, 13, of Mason City, is one of two juveniles charged earlier this summer with second-degree criminal mischief, a Class D felony, for stripping bark off a mature tree on Mason City school property.

Wells said the incident occurred Aug. 5 near Roosevelt Elementary, an outdoor hangout spot for her son and his friends. Her son pulled at a piece of bark that was falling off the tree, with friends later following suit.

She said a neighbor witnessed Niles and Devon Barkema, 14, removing the bark and called police. After allegedly admitting to the act, both were charged with second-degree criminal mischief.

Barkema is Niles’ stepbrother but does not live with Niles.

Charges were based on the dollar amount to remove and replace the tree, which Cutting Edge Tree Services quoted at $1,166, according to Mason City Police Sgt. Dave Houser.

“I thought it was high to begin with, but how do you come up with a cost of a tree?” Houser said.

He said the tree will likely die, since it is missing 4 to 5 feet of bark all the way around the trunk.

Wells said two other juveniles were involved in defacing the tree and carved their initials, but Houser said no others were charged in the incident.

Wells feels there was a lack of responsibility from the Police Department and school district for not conducting a more thorough investigation or suggesting additional estimates.

Blanchard Tree Services quoted her $475, which would not amount to felony charges.

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