Our View....It’s a community thingThe Pine Valley Recreational Area in Cloquet has always been about community. The community’s response to news of the destruction wrought by copper thieves at the recreation area has been gratifying, but there are many ways people can help.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The Pine Valley Recreational Area in Cloquet has always been about community. Dreamed up by (then) Cloquet ski coach Joe Nowak and a group of ski jumping and cross country ski enthusiasts, the 40-acre site was donated by the Northwest Paper Company, provided the city would accept the land and run it as a park.
With the guidance of the Cloquet Park Board led by Al Spafford, plans got under way, with the skiers themselves cutting brush and weeds on weekends and during after-school work parties. The first temporary ski jump was erected by the skiers in the fall of 1961; cross country skiing practice began the following January on a network of trails created through more volunteer efforts. A cinder block chalet was added in fall 1962, much of it accomplished once again through donated time and labor, and lights were added to the ski jump.
With a history like that, how could a few copper thieves destroy Cloquet’s hidden gem of a park?
The destruction of the rope tow motor didn’t deter any jumpers – ages 3 to 13 – celebrating the arrival of winter at jump practice Tuesday night: They simply took off their skis after each jump and walked up the hill.
The fact that (likely the same) thieves wrecked the ski jump lights the year before didn’t stop any jumpers either, although the $2,400 bill to repair those lights (without copper this time) did hurt the club’s bank account and meant fewer skis were purchased to loan out to kids for the past two years.
The community’s response to news of the destruction wrought by the thieves has been gratifying, said volunteers Pat Marciniak and Ken Ripp, who oversee the Cloquet Ski Club and share coaching duties. Since the Pine Journal story was published, which ran in the Duluth News Tribune as well, they’ve had several donations come in and calls from local companies inviting them to apply for available grants.
Money certainly helps. Donations of labor and time help, too.
A vigilant community will help as well.
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, which they strip and sell to recycling businesses.
While such 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.”
Go ahead, be a nosy neighbor. Make that call, even if you think the police might laugh at you. What will it hurt if it turns out to be a false alarm? Absolutely nothing.
There are many ways to help make Cloquet and the rest of Carlton County a better place to ski, raise children and make our home.
All it takes is people willing to give time and effort to work together at making it better … one ski hill, one march, one neighborhood at a time.