Vandals set fire at abandoned Afton State Park

Afton State Park was empty during the shutdown.

Afton State Park was empty during the shutdown.

Eleven people vandalized Afton State Park over the weekend, taking advantage of the empty park during the state shutdown to wreak havoc, police say.

The group is  alleged to have torn off the roof of a cabin, started a fire and causing up to $35,000 in damage. All 11, whose ages range from 18-23, were booked into Washington County Jail, where they rang in the Fourth of July in their cells.

[jump] The group of eight boys and three girls took up residence in the park Sunday night. They had all night to do their bidding in private, until they were spotted by a man walking his dog Monday morning. By the time they were spotted by a man walking his dog the next day, they'd done about $35,000 in damage, including setting fire to a cabin.

When cops responded to the call, they caught a dozen alleged vandals hiding in the bushes, in their cars and behind buildings. One juvenile was let go, and one more may have gotten away: Police said they were still looking for one suspect.

All 11 were arrested on charges of felony property damage, while eight of them had an additional burglary charge. and four who are under 21 were charged for drinking. As of this writing, most had been released without bail, and others were scheduled for release depending on when they were booked into jail.

During the shutdown, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is operating with a bare-bones staff of about 230. The other 2,500 staff members are essentially laid off until the state government resumes business.