BRATTLEBORO — A vandal or vandals struck the Harris Hill Ski Jump last week, damaging several structures on the property and plastering buildings with graffiti.
According to a press release from the Brattleboro Police Department, a report was filed by a person hiking the area on Nov. 23. Upon arrival, police found the damage, which occurred sometime between Sunday, Nov. 22, and the morning of Nov. 23.
"We work so hard to keep the ski jump in shape, with the maintenance that has to be done throughout the year," said Pat Howell, chairwoman of the board of trustees of Harris Hill. "When something as senseless and intentional as vandalism occurs, your heart just sinks."
In addition to the broken windows and graffiti, said Howell, electrical cables were yanked from the walls in two of the buildings at the ski jump on Cedar Street.
"We just finished cutting the field and fixing the fence," she said. "We have thing we need to do to get ready before February, such as repair some of the steps."
Sandy Harris, who manages the hill's facilities and is the daughter of Fred Harris, said she won't know the repair costs until an electrician and a carpenter can get on site and evaluate the extent of the damages.
"The most extensive damages are the ripped-out wires," she said. "All I'm doing right now is getting a carpenter up here to repair the doors and locks and Dompier Electric to take a look at the wires."
Harris said the organization does have insurance to cover the damages, but she's not sure if the costs will justify filing a claim.
"It's just so discouraging because this ski jump event is run by volunteers and on donations," said Harris. "It's not a money maker. It's a labor of love."
Despite the vandalism, both Howell and Harris said Harris Hill will be ready for jumpers the weekend of Feb. 20 and 21. The event is one week later than usual, but for a very good reason, she said. On Sunday, Feb. 24, the Salisbury Winter Sports Association is hosting the Junior Nationals at Satre Hill in Salisbury, Conn.
"We wanted to coordinate with Salisbury so that all of the top U.S. junior jumpers will be at Harris Hill as well," said Howell.
The 2016 event features the Pepsi Challenge on Feb. 20 and the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament on Feb. 21.
Between 2005 and 2008, the hill was completely re-built to comply with FIS (International Ski Federation) standards to qualify Harris Hill to host internationally sanctioned events. In 2012 it hosted the first ever FIS Cup Tournament in the United States. The weekend event is organized entirely by volunteers. It takes hundreds of volunteers to put on this two-day tournament which is made possible by the support of the community through sponsorships, cash donations and in-kind donations of time, expertise and materials. The Brattleboro Outing Club transferred ownership of the facility to Harris Hill Ski Jump, Inc. in 2012 and the Windham Foundation owns the land on which it is located. For more information on the ski jump or how to volunteer, call 802-254-4565 or visit harrishillskijump.org.
Anyone who might have information about the vandalism or believes they observed suspicious activity there is encouraged to contact Officer Adam Petlock at 802-257-7950.