Vandals damage gate, creating public safety hazard

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) A battered gate sits in a fence at the end of Rio Wrangler Parkway, not far from Damonte Ranch High, on the edge of some of the newest neighborhoods in this southeast corner of the Truckee Meadows.

The amount of signage as you approach it is your first clue of the conflict it represents. Some warn against feeding or harassing wild horses. Others simply remind you to keep the gate closed. Either message is hard to miss.

Some have long been used to having access to the hillsides on the other side, but in fact it is no longer public land; it's private property and we can only assume some apparently can't accept that fact.

By day the gate is chained but not locked. It's secured each night, however, and that's when this happens. The gate has been repeatedly vandalized. Run into, pulled down. The people who worry about it have lost count of the number of times it's happened.

Last week it happened again. The damage has been repaired, but who knows? By the time you see this it may need repair once again.

Besides the expense of repairing this vandalism, there's another concern and it has to do with what's beyond this fence.

The wild horses of the Virginia Range are a regular sight on the hillsides and the wetlands on the other side. The fence and this gate are what hopefully keeps them there.

"We want to ensure the horses stay up on those properties and out of the streets," says Shannon Windle, President of the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund.

Keeping the horses on the range and out of the neighborhoods has been a continuing challenge for advocates like Windle.

What concerns them most is the thought of the horses being drawn down to the traffic on newly-completed Southeast Connector/Veterans Parkway.

So, a member of the Hidden Valley Wild Horse group patrols the area.

"There are several gates in that area and she checks them all and when the horses are out on the streets, she herds them back in through the openings and closes the gates."

Each time this gate is torn down, the likelihood of a fatal encounter on the Parkway increases. The vandals have been striking at night, when the horses are also on the move. A bad combination.

"Most of them are dark and even though your headlights are on them, don't see them until the horses is right in front of you. So, a great potential for injury and it never ends well for the horse."

Secret Witness has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible. Their number is (775) 322-4900.

The Hidden Valley Wild horse Protection Fund maintains a 24-hour hotline to report problems with wild horses in the area. Their number is 775-352-3944.