The Earl J. Koobs Nature Area in Carmichael got a rough start to the new year after vandals broke into a shed and stole lawn mowers and other landscaping equipment worth more than $5,000 in total.
The 4.6-acre nature area, next to the former La Sierra High School, has become a base of exploration for students studying the environment since its establishment in 1971.
On Thursday afternoon, Linda Jones, chairwoman of the nonprofit committee overseeing the area, waited anxiously for Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies to arrive and take a report. Without the equipment, she said, volunteers would struggle to maintain the landscaping.
“I can’t imagine what they did to get this off,” Jones said, pointing to the large brown door of the shed, now half open.
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She said the break-in happened between Tuesday evening and Thursday morning.
The door wasn’t just pried open with a crowbar. Instead, vandals dismantled it altogether by unbolting the sliding mechanism.
With its lush grass and tall oak trees, the plot of land inside one of Sacramento County’s older suburbs is a reminder of simpler days. Volunteer crews maintain the preserve year-round, mowing the grass to prevent fires.
A steady stream of supporters and friends – and even Earl J. Koobs himself – stopped by as word of the burglary spread.
Koobs, 94, was a key figure in founding the preserve when he taught biology at La Sierra High.
“The kids gave me hope that this country would rise again,” said the soft-spoken Koobs, a World War II Navy veteran.
Half an hour earlier, committee member Glen Pinnegar peered into the damaged shed. Pinnegar already had ideas for preventing a repeat of what happened, perhaps by building a wrought-iron fence all around.
But he noted, “If someone wants in, there’s nothing you can do to stop them.”
Over the last few decades, thousands have been touched by the nature area. Elementary-school students hike the trails and observe monarch butterflies during the school year. Countless Eagle Scout projects have been completed inside, including a network of elevated boardwalk trails and an information booth.
The nature area also is home the state’s first-known Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Jones said. About 200 people gather there on Veterans Day every November to remember lost lives.
One thing preserve volunteers share is a sense of community.
Jones, who has led the steering committee for 18 years, said her upbringing in rural Los Altos Hills pushes her to keep the area open. She could hardly contain her enthusiasm as she pored through a scrapbook of old newspaper clippings showcasing the nature area’s history.
“Community,” Jones said. “That’s something to be happy for.”