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Dumb and Dumber


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  • Camo Cop
    Retitled as "Dumb, Dumber & Oh My Gawd, Who Reminds You To Breathe???"

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  • Justsaying
    started a topic Dumb and Dumber

    Dumb and Dumber

    Three men are facing felony charges in connection with a wild weekend on the Rappahannock River that they'd probably just as soon forget.

    Police say the trouble began near the end of a camping outing March 20 at a rustic site off Richards Ferry Road, above where the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers join in Culpeper County.

    "Apparently, one guy took off in his vehicle in the woods and got stuck," said Lee Sillitoe, Fredericksburg's watershed property manager.

    Sillitoe, a police officer, protects more than 4,200 acres of city-owned land that runs upstream from Fredericksburg into several jurisdictions along the two rivers.

    After the truck got stuck, Sillitoe said, one of the men took a bucket loader--without permission--from a nearby land development site about a mile away. He said the owner is a distant relative of one of the men and declined to press charges.

    On its journey down to the river, the 40,000-pound Caterpillar 963 loader took out about a dozen trees, carving some deep ruts along the way. Its tanklike tracks were imprinted along a narrow path winding through the woods.

    When the loader reached the truck a few hundred feet from the river, it " broke through the surface because the water table is so high, and it sunk in up to its tracks," Sillitoe said.

    Things continued to go downhill. Next, the trio brought down a backhoe, managing to get that stuck as well, though they got the truck out at some point.

    Authorities found out about the escapade because Joseph Watson, a captain in the Culpeper Sheriff's Office, lives along Richards Ferry Road. He saw the heavy machinery heading toward the river, went down to investigate and called Sillitoe.

    For now, yellow "Do not cross crime scene" police tape surrounds the bucket loader and backhoe.

    Sillitoe says there are several issues.

    First, motor vehicles are banned on the watershed property, which is protected under a permanent conservation easement. From where the vehicles are stuck, "There is a path of destruction all the way up the hill," Sillitoe said.

    Second, some of the damage isn't apparent. The weight of the machines, he said, "has compacted soil, crushed roots, and trees will be affected all along the route."

    In addition, the disturbed area around the stuck equipment is next to a small stream that runs into the river.

    Sediment in runoff is a serious problem in the Rappahannock and the Rapidan. Vast shoals of silt have accumulated downstream, especially in the Rappahannock, below the fall line in Fredericksburg.

    Sillitoe says more damage will be done to the river bank when the machinery is removed.

    "We'll need even heavier equipment down there" to pull them out. "That means a wider path, [and] more trees will have to go."

    Kevin Allen, 25, of Temple Hills, Md., Carlos Alarcon, 25, of Fairfax, and Sean Gilbertson, 25, of Annandale, are each charged with one count of felony destruction of property, one count of misdemeanor destruction of property and one count of trespassing. No arrests had been made as of yesterday.

    Sillitoe said an assessment is under way to determine the value of the trees and damage to the property. If the city has to hire a contractor to remove the equipment, that cost would also be passed along to those charged.

    Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers field office in Fredericksburg is looking into whether the damage violated any federal laws.

    Sillitoe is the first full-time manager of the watershed property and has been on the job over three years.

    He said he encountered the same three men at the camping area last summer, on all-terrain vehicles, and gave them warnings.

    Camping, hiking, hunting, fishing and other activities are allowed on the watershed land.

    But Sillitoe says vehicles--particularly ATVs that tear up the fragile soil next to the river--continue to be a problem. Trash is another concern, along with neighboring property owners cutting brush or trees on city land.

    Sillitoe often meets with school and community groups to talk about the land, what's allowed and what isn't, and to encourage conservation practices.

    He typically issues warnings but says he made an exception in this case. Of all the violations he's seen, "This one is probably at the top of the list."


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