Article Courtesy of The
Northwest Florida Daily News
By Jim Thompson
Published August 26, 2020
SANTA ROSA BEACH — Authorities are remaining tight-lipped regarding a May
incident in which four people were caught cutting down trees in Topsail Hill
Preserve State Park.
"As this matter is
under active criminal investigation, we are limited in our
ability to comment," Alexandra Kuchta, spokeswoman for the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), said
in a Tuesday email responding to a Daily News request for
information on the status of the incident.
Kuchta went on to note only that the FDEP, one of two state
agencies investigating the incident, "is committed to
enforcing Florida's environmental laws and we would be happy
to provide you with an update once our investigation is
The email provided no indication of when the investigation
might be completed.
A spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the
other state agency investigating the incident, was not immediately able to
say Tuesday whether that agency was prepared to provide any updates on the
Meanwhile, posts on social media continue to express concerns about the
incident and wonder about any pending action against the four people.
Early on as news of the incident began to develop, the homeowners'
association for the nearby Cypress Dunes neighborhood indicated that the
people were residents of the neighborhood, but provided no more specific
The four people were caught in the act of cutting down trees within the
preserve by a nearby resident and park volunteer Bill Potter. They left
before authorities arrived on the scene, but Potter captured his encounter
with them on video.
At the time, Potter told the Daily News that a neighbor heard a buzzing
sound coming from the park on the night of May 29 that he assumed was a
drone or a power drill.
But as the sound persisted the next day, Potter and the neighbor went up on
a balcony to search for the source of the noise, and the neighbor saw a tree
fall in the preserve.
Potter headed through the park in the direction of the noise, and when he
encountered the group, they told him they worked for the park, but left the
area during the encounter.
Within a couple of days, social media posts were claiming to have identified
the people involved, at which time the Cypress Dunes HOA issued a cryptic
statement noting, in part, that they believed the men were neighborhood
“While these individuals have been respected members of our neighborhood for
many years, please know that their actions go against the values and ideals
of our community,” the statement noted.