Max Patch restored, vandalism case solvedCanton man sentenced to jail
An investigation into vandalism at the popular scenic bald of Max Patch in February involved three Haywood County men and led to several citations and one jail sentence earlier this month.
Authorities launched the investigation after the vandals destroyed fencing and drove vehicles onto the bald, creating deep ruts in the mud.
Following an investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, it was found that 12 people from Haywood and Buncombe counties were responsible for the vandalism, which caused more than $5,000 in damages, said Stevin Westcott, Forest Service spokesman.
Many of the vandals were issued citations for illegally driving off-road, destruction of government property and/or driving a vehicle off-road on a biologically sensitive area and each suspect was ordered to pay $407 in restitution.
Among those cited were Nathaniel Clark of Canton; Dustin Morgan, of Clyde; Robert Hall, Tyler Irvine, Brenden McMahan, Brandon Nash and Robert Baker, all of Asheville; Tyler Creasman and Travis Whitaker, both of Candler; and Jonathan Mathis and Derik Pack of Cosby, Tennessee.
Canton resident Tyler Pace, 24, was sentenced in federal district court July 9 for his role in the case.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Pace tore down the entrance gate and fence at the bald, thereby enabling the others to drive into a protected area where vehicles are not allowed. Pace paid his portion of restitution and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
"This sentence sends a message to vandals that damaging our public lands will not be tolerated," said U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Richard Edwards.
In May, volunteers from several different organizations including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Club and Appalachian 4x4 Club gathered to help rangers in the Pisgah National Forest district repair the damaged bald.
“Working with Forest Service personnel, dozens of volunteers donated close to 300 hours of service to help restore this popular site, and we’re grateful for their help,” said Acting District Ranger David McFee. “This partnership between the Forest Service and cooperating volunteers shows the combined commitment to protect, restore and improve the beauty of Max Patch.”
The Forest Service and volunteers worked together to design a parking area that provides pedestrian access. The repair work also included the creation of a perimeter using native stones and plantings of Catawba rhododendron and mountain laurel. This project was made possible from funding by the Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Carolina Mountain Club. The Carolina Mountain Club and Appalachian 4x4 Club provided 50 volunteers who donated over 280 hours to restore the site with native plantings and soil stabilization. The work was completed over the course of three weeks.
Aspects of the project that could not be completed with volunteers were solicited through a contract administered by the Forest Service and awarded to a local contractor.