Rash of arrests at former air base

(Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette) This interior photograph of one of the buildings at the former Calumet Air Force Radar Base is an example of the dangerous condition of the structures on the site, and the risks to those who trespass on the property. The Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners, through the Sheriff’s Office, has seen a drastic increase in the number of trespassing incidents on the property, and wants to warn the public that anyone caught on the premises without authorization from the KCSO will be arrested and prosecuted.

EAGLE HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A high rate of trespassing at the former Calumet Air Force radar base on Keweenaw County’s Mt. Horace Greeley has been steadily increasing since late summer, said Keweenaw County Sheriff Bill Luokkanen.

Because of the high risk of serious injury, or worse, Keweenaw County has an ordinance prohibiting trespassing at the former air base, he said.

The county owns the property, as well as the air base. It has been unoccupied for many years, and there are many hazardous conditions that exist on the property, from dilapidated buildings to sink holes, piles of broken glass, and age-weakened structures, said Luokkanen.

“I’m concerned with someone tripping into a pile of glass, or having a building collapse on them,” Luokkanen said. “That’s what I’m looking at.”

In addition to innumerable counts of trespassing, the Sheriff’s Office has dealt with many counts of vandalism and larceny.

“We’ve been dealing over the years with many counts of vandalism and those sorts of behaviors.”

“The old Air Force base is clearly marked,” Luokkanen said, “roads are burmed. It’s gated. It is marked no trespassing.”

Since late this summer, and into mid-autumn, he said, there has been a drastic increase in the number of trespassers on the site. Just this weekend alone, he said, five or six citations were issued to people who were caught trespassing on the property.

“The Sheriff’s Office wants everybody to be aware that there is no trespassing at the old base,” Luokkanen warned, “and you will be prosecuted if caught.”

Anyone caught there is being cited under Keweenaw County’s Trespassing Ordinance, which is a civil infraction.

“If somebody is caught vandalizing property or removing property from the Air Force Base,” he cautioned, “they will be criminally charged with the appropriate charge.

“Like I said: We’ve had a lot of people who have vandalized, and we’ve had a lot of people who have stolen things from up there over the years, and we’ve arrested dozens of people for those behaviors,” he said. “But lately it’s been a lot of people who think it’s neat to go up there and see the abandoned base.

“Well, it’s very dangerous. We encourage people not to go up there. We don’t want to see anybody hurt, and they will be cited.”

It is not just local residents who are trespassing, he said, but college students as well.

“If a university student is caught and cited for trespassing up at the Air Force base, we would have no problem with informing that university and their disciplinary board about their students,” said Luokkanen said, “and whatever action they would take, they would take.”

The number of trespassing incidents has become altogether too frequent, he said.

“We really have to get a handle on this, because I just don’t want any people in there.”