NORMAL — Jessica Chambers tried for years to get enough money for a vertical xylophone for the children’s garden at the Illinois State University Horticulture Center.
The money finally came through and the wooden instrument was installed Sept. 28, a day before the annual Autumnal Festival at the gardens off Raab Road.
Now, Chambers is back to square one.
The xylophone — and many other parts of the center’s gardens — were damaged overnight Wednesday in a vandalism spree that caused an estimated $2,000 to $3,000 in damage.
“We have to raise funds for every piece of wood,” said Chambers, director of the horticulture center. “It’s a step back for us.”
While there was spotty damage in several of the gardens, including broken plants and a broken arbor in the center’s herb garden, the most damage occurred in the children’s garden.
A two-tiered arbor that once was draped with morning glories is now on the ground in two pieces; half of the morning glories are dead. Ceramic gnomes that used to hide under some plants were thrown into a play sand area and several were broken.
A glass flower and gazing ball and giant pumpkins and gourds were smashed. A little free library in a reading area was trashed. A wire and paper caterpillar that used to stretch about 8 feet was squashed.
“There was no appreciation for creations other people did,” Chambers said.
Some of the damage was personal for Chambers, whose mother had painted two of the signs broken by the vandals.
“It looks like one was broken over someone’s knees,” she said. “This is just mean.”
ISU police took a report. It appears the vandals drove into the gardens through the regular entryway, drove around all the garden areas and then left by driving through the grass and back onto Raab Road. Tire tracks were visible in the wet grass Thursday morning.
Donations toward repairing the damage may be sent to Chambers at 136 Ropp Ag Building, Campus Box 5020, Normal, IL 61790-5020.