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Vandalism mars Brule canoe landing

A metal historical marker at the Stones Bridge canoe landing sits in a pile of sawdust after vandals cut it down with a chainsaw. The marker was among three structures on the Brule River State Forest property recently vandalized. (Photos courtesy of Catherine Khalar)

Hours of work and thousands of dollars in repairs and improvements were reduced to a pile of timber and sawdust recently when vandals destroyed signs and historical markers at Stones Bridge canoe landing, about half a mile north of the Highland Town Hall on Highway S.

"It's really a senseless thing, what they did here recently," said Dave Schulz, Brule River State Forest superintendent.

The damage at Stones Bridge canoe landing was reported to the Brule River State Forest early Monday morning. Schulz said he suspected the vandalism took place on Saturday night, but it could have happened anytime during the past week.

Three structures were damaged -- a historical marker, an information kiosk and a large road sign. Two of the three structures were less than two years old, and state forest staff had recently repainted the historical marker to restore and preserve it.

"We thought it would last another 40 years," Schulz said. The metal sign is now has a large crack on one side, but it may be salvageable.

Whoever vandalized the signs went to great lengths, Schulz said. Two of the signs cut down were supported by 12- to 14-inch logs. A chainsaw was used to cut through the supports and topple the signs.

The vandalism will cost the Brule River State Forest several thousand dollars, and it sweeps away months of planning and work the state forest staff dedicated to improving the canoe landing.

The defacement also struck a chord with the Brule River Sportsmen's Club (BRSC). The information kiosk cut down at the canoe landing had served as a memorial to longtime member Frank Culhane.

"The kiosk was built in the summer of 2010 and was funded by the BRSC with donations from the Culhane family to memorialize Frank Culhane," said John Holter, BRSC vice president. "The donations exceeded the cost of the kiosk by about $500, and the family requested the extra funds be used for our annual scholarship program."

The recent vandalism comes on the heels of another incident that occurred on Brule River State Forest property two years ago. On that occasion, several information and map kiosks located at parking areas north of Brule were burned to the ground.

"I doubt if there's any connection," Schulz said. He saw no similarity between the incidents other than the senselessness of the acts, but he acknowledges that vandalism on state forest property is an ongoing problem.

Holter was also at a loss to explain the recent vandalism at Stones Bridge.

"I don't believe there is a specific motive for this one act, but the DNR, being a public institution, tends to be a good lightning rod for this type of behavior," Holter said.

The Brule River Forest is seeking information about the Stones Bridge vandalism, and Holter said the Brule River Sportsmen's Club will take up discussion at its next meeting to consider offering a reward for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

Anyone with information about the vandalism can call the Brule River State Forest at (715) 372-5678.

"Typically if someone does something like that, they end up talking about it to somebody," Schulz said. "We would just like to see if anyone has any information about who may have done this."