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Vandals trashed a Nature Center's nearly finished building

Hammers and an ax were used to smash windows and break down doors.

The expansion of a popular Rochester nature center suffered a setback last week when vandals damaged a nearly-finished education building at Quarry Hill Nature Center.

Lori Forstie, a spokeswoman for the center, told GoMN the cost of the damage is estimated at $75,000 to $100,000 and will probably push back completion of the new building by a month or two. 

The damage

Forstie says some of the damage was obvious when the staff arrived on Friday morning. Construction materials – including hammers and an ax – were used to smash windows and break down doors. 

But some of the most costly damage, like the paint poured into the heating and air conditioning system, was only discovered later. Paint was also splashed around the building, an ax was used to puncture the siding, and drywall waiting to be installed was smashed to pieces. 

Rochester Police Lt. Mike Sadauskis told GoMN surveillance video from the Nature Center could prove useful in the investigation, but said there's no footage of what happened at the building under construction. 

About the project 

The Quarry Hill Nature Center and Park is right in Rochester, northeast of downtown. It's so popular with summer camps and school groups, it's actually been turning people away because there isn't room for everybody, Forstie said. 

So the center, which does not charge admission, is excited that four years of plans for an expansion are in the home stretch. Their $2.6 million fundraising campaign has about $200,000 left to go, Forstie said. 

The building under construction is sometimes called the Prairie House and Forstie said it's a 5- or 10-minute walk from the main building.

The center was looking forward to an opening in the spring but now they'll have to see how much the vandalism messes up that timetable. 

No special vandalism recovery fund has been set up, but you can donate to Friends of Quarry Hill Nature Center here.

This weekend's Fall Festival at the Nature Center will go on as planned. 

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