The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking information about the recent theft of three wooden Brule River State Forest signs.
Vandals took a large sign from the corner of Sandmon Road and County Highway S in the town of Highland; the sign from the parking lot at the mouth of the Brule River in the town of Cloverland; and a sign for the St. Croix Lake Picnic Area and Palmers Boat Landing in Solon Springs that was installed four months ago.
Brule River State Forest Park Ranger Matt MacKenzie said the thefts probably occurred within the last month and would have involved a number of individuals, due to the size and weight of the signs. The largest, the monument sign in Highland, measured 9 feet by 5 feet; the smallest was 5 feet by 6 feet.
The thefts may have involved noise and tools. In the case of the sign at the mouth of the Brule River on Brule River Road, the vandals cut the posts off and took the sign.
“I have no idea what they do with these,” MacKenzie said, but the crimes are costly.
The Solon Springs sign alone, crafted by the Tiger Manufacturing students at Northwestern High School, cost $1,500.
“Stealing or damaging signs causes an expense for the property to replace, which ultimately comes out of everybody’s pocket, since state-owned lands are owned by all and can be used by all,” DNR Conservation Warden Adam Stennett said. “It’s a crime against everyone that uses those properties.”
Theft or damage of park signs is not uncommon. Most properties have at least one or two smaller signs stolen or damaged every year, Stennett said.
“Small informational signs, parking, informational signs do get stolen or damaged on a regular basis,” he said. “Taking the large monument signs and other larger signs, though, is uncommon.”
It can take time to replace them, as well. That can cause confusion for visitors and is an eyesore, Stennett said.
The crimes are punishable by law. Minor offenses of damaging or stealing signs may be enforced by a citation. Depending on the cost of the signs or the extent of the damages, misdemeanor charges of criminal damage to property or theft could also be pursued.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has been alerted to the missing signs. Anyone with information on the thefts or anyone who has seen suspicious activity in the Brule River State Forest can call the DNR Tipline, 800-847-9367, or the sheriff’s office. Those who report violations to the tipline can choose to remain anonymous, Stennett said.