Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thieves take festival timber

For Fort Gibraltar reconstruction

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Remaining logs are seen at Fort Gibraltar. It's not known whether the hundreds of logs stolen were taken all at once or over a period of time.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Remaining logs are seen at Fort Gibraltar. It's not known whether the hundreds of logs stolen were taken all at once or over a period of time. Photo Store

C'EST une mauvaise chose -- a bad thing, indeed -- when someone steals from an iconic festival, but that's what happened over the weekend to the Festival du Voyageur.

Thieves ripped off 320 logs measuring nearly six metres each from the Fort Gibraltar area of the 45-year-old festival's site in Saint-Boniface at 866 St. Joseph St. The loss has been valued at $10,000.

"We have no idea how these guys did this. Half of the inventory that was there is gone," said Ginette Lavack Walters, Festival du Voyageur's executive director.

The logs were part of a partially federally-funded project to refurbish the replica of the historic North West Company fort which was built in 1979.

"We're a not-for-profit organization and it took years to find funding for this project...'

-- Ginette Lavack Walters, Festival du Voyageur's executive director

"The project is not complete, but the fort walls reconstruction was nearly complete. That was phase one of the project," Walters said.

"The next phase is going inside the fort and working on the cabins. There was that one wall left to build on the fort. To be this close to completing it and having our materials gone is really shocking."

She said the logs were enclosed on the west side of the fort by locked wire fencing which did not appear to be disturbed. When construction crews returned to work on Monday, they noticed all of the piles of logs were depleted.

"We're a not-for-profit organization and it took years to find funding for this project and we still don't have all the funding," she said, noting the project's total cost was originally anticipated to be $300,000. "To have this, it's really set us back. It's really unfortunate."

Walters said the theft would have involved planning.

"You need a semi-trailer, you need a truck, you need the pickers to grab the logs. You're not picking these up on your own. They had to be organized, they had to have the equipment or some form of machinery or lots of hands."

Walters said the loss includes the cost of the logs as well as labour involved to peel and de-bark the logs to make them smooth for use in the fort walls. Some of the stolen logs were already peeled.

Walters said work is not done on the weekend because Fort Gibraltar operates year-round as a venue for weddings and conferences among other events. There would have been people at the site until about 3 a.m. twice over the weekend so it has not been determined when the theft occurred. It is possible it occurred over a period of time but a full inventory was done Aug. 9 and everything was in order.

Winnipeg police, who are investigating, and Festival staff are asking for assistance from the public.

"At this point, this is not a construction site where there is a lot of coming and going. We're not removing materials from the site, we've been working with what we have there," Walters said. "Anyone that might have seen logs moving through St. Boniface or strange activity near the fort over the past few days, if they could please call police with any information."

Call Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 7:45 AM CDT: replaces photo

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