Vandals who struck the Silverton Snowmobile Club’s equipment earlier this week caused thousands of dollars in damages, forcing a halt to grooming on Molas Pass and in Silverton.
Jim Lokey, president of the club, said it appears the vandalism happened around 9 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s a pretty hard hit,” he said. “This is an expensive game we’re involved in here.”
The Silverton Snowmobile Club grooms an estimated 104 miles of trails around Molas Pass and around the town of Silverton, which are designated as multi-use. The equipment is stored near Big Molas Lake on U.S. Highway 550.
Lokey said it appears a barn that stored a Kubota tractor was broken into, and then, the tractor was hot-wired and taken into a field about 200 yards from the barn and buried in the snow.
Upon initial inspection, the tractor had its ignition ripped out and it looks like the snowblower on the machine is destroyed. Club members hope to remove the tractor Friday from its current location, where it is stuck, before knowing the full extent of damages.
The vandal(s) also broke the windows to get into a Prinoth Bison Snowcat, jammed the ignition to get it started, and then used the machine to try to bury the tractor, Lokey said.
The cost of damages remains unknown on the snowcat, Lokey said, but several parts are broken on the inside that will have to be replaced. And, it appears the snowcat ran into the tractor, causing further damage.
Lokey said the suspect(s) then took a snowmobile that is typically used for trail work and emergency rescues, and spun the track of the machine until it was worn out and full of dirt, doing doughnuts in the parking lot.
“If you tried to use it now, you’d grind out the bearings in the track,” he said. “The dirt would grind it up until it stopped turning.”
The vandal or vandals then took off, Lokey said.
While damages are still being assessed, the incident could cost the club “into the thousands,” Lokey said. The assessment of damages alone may cost several thousand, he added.
The tractor, which the Lokeys personally own, cost about $50,000. The snowcat, which belongs to the club and was purchased through registration fees of snowmobiles and through Colorado state parks, cost $20,000. And the snowmobile cost about $13,000.
“It’s going to be expensive,” said Lokey, adding insurance, out-of-pocket costs and volunteers are likely needed to rectify the situation.
And, as a result of the vandalism, all grooming has stopped and the parking lot near Molas Pass is closed.
Lokey declined to comment further about the incident, citing an open investigation, but he did say he believed the vandalism was an act against the snowmobile club and his family.
The Lokey family has spent 20 years and countless hours devoted to recreation on Molas Pass, he said. And the snowmobile club offers a number of community events and grooms trails that are open to all users.
DeAnne Gallegos, executive director of the Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Lokey family and the Silverton Snowmobile Club are entirely responsible for securing grant funding and grooming the trails around Molas Pass and Silverton.
“If it were not for the Silverton Snowmobile Club and the work (the Lokeys) do up there, none of those all-user trails would exist,” she said. “I don’t think people understand the magic and hard work (that goes into) making that happen.”
San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Steve Lowrance said evidence was collected at the scene and sent to a lab with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and investigators hope to collect more DNA and fingerprint evidence.
Lowrance declined to comment about additional details of the case, citing an open investigation, but he said the Sheriff’s Office has identified potential suspects.
“At this early stage, we don’t rule out possibilities,” he said.
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 387-5531.
Anyone interested in helping the Silverton Snowmobile Club can donate at www.silvertonsnowmobileclub.org.