Criminals poison, kill neighbor's trees to get better view of Geneva Lake

NOW: Criminals poison, kill neighbor’s trees to get better view of Geneva Lake

VILLAGE OF FONTANA, Wis. (CBS 58) --- Dozens of trees around Geneva Lake have been poisoned or cut down. Neighbors say that someone is intentionally destroying their property to get a better view of Geneva Lake.

Some tall trees block the view for houses on an incline across Geneva Lake in the Village of Fontana. Some criminals are taking matters into their own hands by poisoning and cutting the tops of trees. Bruce Wilkinson says his neighbor cut the tops of nearly 20 trees in his backyard.

“They were topped at nearly the 20-25 foot level to clear out to the view out to the lake from here,” Wilkinson said.

A year ago, on the other side of his home trees were poisoned. Wilkinson had to remove and replace the trees, soil and boulders out of his own pocket. 

“The toxin leeches into the soil and makes it improbable that anything will grow in that soil again,” Wilkinson said.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection tested the soil and found several pesticides were used to kill the trees.

“They both have pesticides that can be purchased by people over the counter. The one is an herbicide which is intended to kill plants. The other is an insecticide which is intended to kill insects,” Communication Specialist Donna Gilson said.

Around the block from Wilkinson, poison killed Gary Schneider’s old, tall tree too.

“We find a big circle of just brown grass and it was about 40 feet in diameter,” Schneider said.

Neighbors say tree topping and poisoning goes back years and now many people have put up surveillance cameras.

"Our neighbor has had her trees poisoned, it's a bad pattern,” Schneider said. “It's sad, it's really just sad that someone would go that far.”

These criminals are destroying the environment and people’s property all to improve their view of Geneva Lake and increase their home’s property value. The Village of Fontana Police Department tells CBS 58 there are ordinances in place to try and stop them.  

But, Wilkinson said at least six of his neighbors have been targeted in recent years. 

“I don’t want to see it happen to anyone else in the neighborhood,” Wilkinson said.

Neighbors said they would have worked with people who were looking for a better view if someone would have asked.

“Just approach us,” Schneider said. “It's something that we would quite frankly be happy to work with someone on.”

These incidents aren't easy to prove. One case was brought to the Walworth County District Attorney. The DA’s Office tells CBS 58 News that they weren’t able to prove who poisoned the trees. Another case went to civil court where an individual was fined for property damage. In Wilkinson’s case, his neighbor received multiple citations.

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