GRANITE CITY, Ill. – FOX 2 has learned thieves have been repeatedly targeting a St. Louis area gem, the historic botanical garden Wilson Park in Granite City. They are stealing planted flowers by the dozen and lawn and garden equipment.

“I consider (the garden) the heart of Granite City,” said Patrice Chandler, a visitor Thursday. “I just think it’s a special place. I tell people I’m going to my ‘Zen’ garden.”

“It’s definitely a special place. The community really takes a lot of pride in this. That’s why it’s really frustrating,” said Justin Brinkmeyer, director of parks for Granite City. “It’s kind of a hidden gem.”

Thieves have hit the garden five times this spring, he said. Mixed in with the rows of flowers, there are now empty patches where flowers have been dug up from an oasis of plants, flowers, water features, and walking paths started by benefactor Ernest Sieveking in the 1920s.

The thefts occurred between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. Wednesday, Brinkmeyer said. A surveillance camera captured a man in garden gloves digging up flowers and putting them into pots he had brought along with him.

“Gloves, pots—they came with a plan,” Brinkmeyer said.

Thieves have also broken into the maintenance building, taking about $1,000 worth of leaf blowers and weed eaters. They’re likely selling the items or using them to support a lawn and garden business. Regardless, they’re stealing more than they realize.

“This is one of the spots I sit because I can hear the water… then you get a big glance… panoramic,” Chandler said. “It’s just a place where I can find enough peace where I can pray, I can just watch the flowers. Somebody stealing from a place where they can find peace is just real sad to me.” 

“We just want the person to stop, to be caught, and let them know that you’re not welcome here if you’re going to be stealing from us,” Brinkmeyer said.  

New surveillance photos of a suspect are now posted on the park district’s Facebook page.

Anyone with information should call the park district at 618-877-3059 or the Granite City Police Department at 618-877-6111.