Thieves do even greater damage to kids ski club in CloquetFor two years in a row, thieves have struck at Cloquet’s Pine Valley Ski Area.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Local criminals really know how to hit the Cloquet Ski Club where it hurts.
For two years in a row, thieves have struck at Cloquet’s Pine Valley Ski Area. In 2011, they vandalized and stripped copper wiring from the ski jump lights. This year they dismantled the rope tow motor – also cutting the electrical wires leading to it – and stole the copper from inside the motor, rendering the 60-year-old motor completely useless.
The thefts directly affect the non-profit Cloquet Ski Club – which teaches children how to cross country ski and/or ski jump – because the club pays for the upkeep of the ski-jumping facilities.
“It’s sad they got basically chump change, but it costs us thousands of dollars,” said ski club secretary Darren Rud during registration this week. “The benefit they got from that isn’t even close to what it costs us.”
Ski Club Coach Pat Marciniak – whose father helped create the ski trails at Pine Valley – said it cost the club $2,400 to fix the ski jump lights last year.
“Any money we have we use to get equipment for the kids,” Marciniak said, noting the club is struggling to keep up with demand for the skis, poles and boots it rents cheaply to members for each season. “That was $2,400 that could have gone to put skis on kids’ feet. That’s a bummer.”
Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande said copper thieves look for remote locations.
“As copper prices have risen, so have the thefts,” Lamirande said, noting that thieves will go into vacant homes or rural businesses and do significant damage to get to the copper.
While recycling businesses can assist police by paying attention to the copper they buy, Lamirande said citizens can also help by keeping their eyes open for suspicious behavior and informing police.
“The more we know, the more we can put together,” he said. “Maybe they’re not doing anything when you see them, but it’s not a bad idea to just make note of a license plate number. We’re looking for trends and things we can put together to create a case.”
In the meantime, the Cloquet Ski Club is looking to cover repair costs, with help from the city of Cloquet, which owns Pine Valley.
Ken Ripp, who directs the club with Marciniak, said it could cost the club as much as $7,000 to get the rope tow working again, even with city officials donating a used motor to the cause. Otherwise the 30 kids who are keeping Cloquet’s long tradition of ski jumping alive will have to walk back up the hill after each jump, not exactly conducive to a good training session.
“That’s a worst-case scenario,” said Ripp, who is hoping the city’s insurance will pay some of the costs (although he thought there was a $5,000 deductible). The club plans to look for grant money and donations to help as well.
City Parks and Streets Supervisor Les Peterson explained the city is upgrading to a larger motor for its rope tow at the city tubing hill, located in a different part of the Pine Valley Ski Area. However, the ski club still will have to buy a new gear reducer and fix the damage done to the electrical wiring leading to its rope tow.
“Vandalism has been more of an issue in the past,” said Peterson, rattling off a number of places where vandals have left graffiti and done minor damage to city property in the past. “We have put a number of cameras up in those locations.”
Ironically, the thieves even stole one of the cameras the city installed after the first Pine Valley theft, taking any clues with them as well as the camera.
Editor’s note: Anyone with information about any copper thefts is encouraged to contact the Cloquet Police Department at 879-1247. Also, anyone who would like to help the Cloquet Ski Club can contact Pat Marciniak at 879-9582 or make a donation to the club’s account at CornerStone Bank, 1516 Cloquet Ave.