By Crystal Thompson
A large wooden table has been stolen from the picnic shelter at the corner of 16th Street and Nineth Avenue, and Arlene Morgan is upset.
Morgan, with family and community support, completed the picnic facility last fall as a memorial to her parents, her brother and her handicapped daughter, Kathy, whom she and her husband, Leigh, lost several years ago.
The shelter, trees and flower beds are cared for by the Morgans and other volunteers; the remainder of the lot is maintained by the City Parks and Recreation Department. Morgan began caring for the flower beds more than 10 years ago and has expanded the area to include a paved walkway, several trees and the picnic facility.
The Morgans planned and paid for the picnic area, the concrete and the tables, donating nearly $13,000 to the effort. The project was completed with the help of Schubert Construction. Havre Day Activity Center built the tables.
Morgan said the tables were specially designed for comfort and ease of use for people who have trouble using standard picnic tables. She said that because of the size and awkward shape of the table, it would have taken two or three good-sized people to move and haul it.
"This wasn't just some teenagers on bikes," Morgan said.
She said she is saddened by the theft and by the ongoing vandalism of the tables. The two remaining tables are covered in words and phrases that have been carved or scratched into the wood.
"(The facility) is open to anyone who comes by to watch ballgames, drink coffee or just relax and enjoy the day. ... I know that other individuals and organizations who do good for the community sometimes suffer this same abuse. It is inexcusable," Morgan wrote in a recent letter to the editor.
Morgan said she thinks it is important for people to get involved in the community, though the work is not always respected or appreciated.
"Obviously I'm upset," Morgan said, "You try to do something nice for the community and you get this kind of stuff."
Morgan hopes that someone will come forward with a tip on last month's theft, either someone involved, or someone who has spotted the table.
"There has to be at least two or three people who know about this," she said.
Havre police Lt. George Tate said thefts of this nature tend to increase during the summer months. Although vandalism to the tables at local parks is more prevalant than actual theft, the city has received complaints in the past.
"We usually have one or two stolen every year," he said.
Tate said the Police Department encourages the community to contact it with tips on this and similar crimes by calling Crimestoppers at 265-4444. Callers may be eligilble for cash rewards.
Morgan said she has thought about chaining the remaining tables to the shelter's posts, but is reluctant to limit their mobility and remains undecided.
"If you want a table like that, why don't you go to work, get the money and buy one?" she said.