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Whodunit on the Rogers Lake Trail

Graffiti on the Rogers Lake shelter. Photo courtesy Kris Ledel

Recently, a friend forwarded a photo of large-scale graffiti on the vintage Ravine Shelter in Fond du Lac State Forest just northeast of Cromwell.

The photo-taker had been out snowmobiling with her family and was distraught at finding larger-than-life paint and a cryptic message. She emailed: "This is a landmark every winter when we go snowmobiling. We have been bringing our kids and our friends by this shelter whenever we're out there. We have so many pictures of it. To say we were shocked when we pulled up would be an understatement. I sent a pic to one of our girls. She responded: 'Do you think we could sand it off?' She couldn't believe that someone would do this. We hope that you will get to the bottom of this and be able to restore it."

I was shocked myself. As a long-time skier on the Rogers Lake trails and, in recent years, organizer of efforts to keep the trails cleared, I had a hard time understanding why, and even how. Another friend said he'd seen it last October while out on the trails. One critic quipped: "Someone with artistic talent. Seems like it could be put to better use."

The area Department of Natural Resources office in Moose Lake confirms that this is graffiti and destruction of state property. It is punishable by a fine, and restitution can be sought to cover the expense of clean up.

The Ravine Shelter is one of two Fond du Lac State Forest shelters serving snowmobilers and skiers. The other, the older Rogers Lake Shelter, sits on the small gem of a lake where Blanche and Kenneth Kingsley homesteaded in the 1930s. Eagle Lake resident Bruce Schoenberg, longtime DNR Division of Forestry District forester, reports that the Ravine Shelter was constructed by the Sentence-to-Service Crew under the supervision of Bob Wait sometime before 1986.

Built with trees harvested from the nearby plantation, the shelter was a trail enhancement project intended for both snowmobile and ski trail users. Bruce recalls: "Bob Wait loved doing log-building work. He built the one at Roger's Lake first and liked that project so much he wanted to do it again. He had a hand in a lot of log shelters around the county as well as the Carlton County Fairgrounds Pavilion."

Schoenberg recalls organizing skiing adventures in the 1980s with Red Clover resident Lonny Gervais when their sons, Tom and Colin, were 4-6 years old. Around 1980, they formed a local chapter of the Bill Koch Youth Ski League for area school kids, finding them equipment and teaching cross-country and downhill skiing.

"We'd arrange an annual trip out to the Ravine Shelter in late winter for ski club kids. Lonny would haul supplies — popcorn, hot chocolate — out on the snowmobile trail, get the stove going and everything set up, while we herded the kids along at their varying speeds. Fun memories! Quite a few of those little skiers are in their 40s now. Wow!"

Gervais maintained and groomed the ski trails for years with DNR funding. Lonny and wife Sandi donated the wood stove to the Rogers Lake Shelter — and it's still there — and moved the prior one to the Ravine Shelter. That stove was stolen somewhere along the line, regrets Schoenberg.

Although we've had problems finding someone to take over Lonny's grooming, a group of us are working hard to keep the ski trails cleared, and Cromwell Sno-Gophers Club actively maintains and grooms the snowmobile trails with DNR support.

If any reader has information on who painted the graffiti on the Ravine Shelter, please let me know! We can suggest restorative justice. We'll help him or her remove the paint!