- Associated Press - Thursday, June 29, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The manager of the Charles Georgeson Botanical Garden in Fairbanks says theft at the garden is a greater issue this year than in years past.

The garden has had three cases of patrons stealing plants in the past two weeks, manager Katie DiCristina said.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” she said. “It’s sad. We have workers and volunteers who feel undermined, I think, because they put in time and effort and in some cases for the volunteers, some money.”

An employee confronted a woman June 14 who was brazenly picking rhubarb from the garden, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (https://bit.ly/2sUJMht )

“When confronted she was not at all remorseful,” DiCristina said. “When confronted she said, ‘Yeah, so what.’ From her, anyway, it sounds like a sense of entitlement.”

In the second case this summer, someone came in overnight June 19 and dug out several plants.

“My initial thought was ‘Oh my God, a squirrel came,’ but it wasn’t a squirrel, it was a human,” DiCristina said. “Two giant cabbages had been dug up. They went into the raised beds in the herb garden - which is tended to and taken care of by volunteers. Two fuchsias and zinnias were stolen from there. In the vegetable garden, a couple of tomato plants and a couple of pepper plants and maybe one or two kale plants (were stolen). Someone very intentionally went for a walk and dug up a bunch of plants and just took them.”

DiCristina contacted university police about the thefts.

A third incident occurred Sunday in the honeyberries, where DiCristina said 80 percent of the berries were stolen. The theft happened following a party at the garden to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

When plants no longer are needed for research, they go to volunteers, workers, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ culinary arts club or to the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, DiCristina said.

“If the general public want to partake, what they can do is volunteer at the garden and we can tell them what’s available and what’s not,” DiCristina said.

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