The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Vandals targeted VHS ski team race

Vulgar language and ruined trail tells sad tale


Valdez Star Photo

Jim and Holly Barlow went sledding with Laila Murilo and baby Josie at the Water Tower hill Monday. The non-motorized area was torn up by a snow machine and obscene graffiti was left by vandals. A reward has been offered to catch the culprits that sullied the area that is popular with families with small children.

A $400 reward is being offered to anyone who can supply information leading to the prosecution of those responsible for tearing up the groomed ski trail near water tower hill in Mineral Creek - and spray painting offensive graffiti.

The vandalism was discovered Saturday morning, just before a Town Race series ski race hosted by the Valdez High School cross country ski team was scheduled to begin.

“It was pretty intentionally destructive,” the team’s coach, Pete Toye, said in an interview Monday. “I’m taking it very personally, to tell the truth.”

The vandals used spray paint to emblazon the snow with messages such as “666” and used the f-word to specifically target the “CC Ski Team.” There were also empty beer bottles found nearby and evidence of a bonfire.

“It’s just so gross in a public area where kids play,” Toye said. “It’s kind of a violation, you know.”

The vandalism occurred near the water tower hill, which is a popular access to the Mineral Creek ski trails and also a well-known hill used by families for easy sledding access, especially for very young children.

Bill Comer, Valdez police chief, said the vandalism had not been called into police dispatch as criminal mischief but a request for extra patrols in the area had been made.

“That is a definite citation,” Comer said, “It’s a ticket – it’s riding where prohibited.”

The area where one or more snowmachines intentionally vandalized the groomed ski trail is specifically closed to motorized traffic and Toye routinely puts notices in the newspaper to ask snowmachiners to refrain from using the trails prior to ski races.

“It takes about 20 minutes to undo five hours of work Marcy (Roberts) does,” Toye said.

Fortunately, Roberts, who supervises snow grooming activities and often operates the machine herself, was able to get the trails in shape again in time for the ski race. The Town Races are a series of friendly cross-country skiing competitions hosted by the VHS cross-country ski team and is open to all skiers in Valdez.

Tony Gorman photo

Buccaneer cross-country ski coach Pete Toye (far left) is spearheading a reward fund that will pay out $400 - or more – to anyone that supplies information leading to the prosecution of vandal or vandals that ruined the ski trail and spray painted hate messages directed towards the team before last week’s Town Series ski race.

Toye has personally put up a reward of $100 for information leading to the identity and ticketing of the “miscreants,” as he has dubbed the unknown vandal or vandals.

The Valdez Star has pledged the same amount. Jenny Benda posted information on the vandalism on the Valdez Snowmachine Club Facebook page, which added another $200 to the reward kitty.

“It is disheartening to see the actions of a few make all of us look bad. The Club will match your $100, and throw in another $100 to help find the responsible party,” Benda said in an email to Toye. “ So far, other folks are also matching or donating money of their own to help. I'm glad the kids were still able to race.”

Toye said other community members have also expressed an interest in adding to the reward amount.

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the vandals can contact Toye at the high school or report information anonymously to the Valdez Police Dept. at 835-4560.


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