Tonganoxie Leavenworth State Fishing Lake has been taking its lumps lately.
The lake, located about four miles northwest of Tonganoxie, has been beset by a drought that lowered lake levels, a crumbling dam that needs repairs and a fish population in which undesirables outnumber sport fish.
The lake's latest lump is an upsurge in vandalism, primarily in two 40-year-old, limestone-walled shelters.
On Friday, caretaker Larry Lentz discovered the latest damage in the west shelter.
Vandals tore limestone blocks from a fireplace and used the blocks to form letters on the ground, spelling the words "eat s---." On a nearby windowsill, more blocks formed the number 95.
"I'd almost rather they used spray paint," Lentz said as he surveyed the damage. "It's sickening."
The shelter's fireplace had to be blocked off with a large metal plate after vandals tore out the fire wall and surrounding limestone blocks, Lentz said.
"They mined out almost through the back wall," he said. "We were afraid the fireplace would cave in, so we put in a metal plate and brace. But they keep picking and picking and picking. There's no way to stop them."
Damage to the shelters, operated by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, is close to $5,000, Lentz said.
That money could have been used instead for repairs to the dam or the upcoming restocking program, he said. Dam repairs may be completed by this year but the restocking program could close the lake to fishing until 1997 or 1998.
The ongoing lake-draining for the two projects has cut the number of visits from campers and anglers, and consequently more vandals are spending time at the lake, Lentz said.
"What we need is more people out here using the lake. That's the big deterrent," he said. "Right now, all we've got is this type of people."