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Canopy stolen from Let's Go Fishing pontoon

The Let's Go Fishing pontoon boat remains on display Thursday, Aug. 30 off State Highway 34 after having its front awning stolen a week earlier. The thieves left behind the rear awning and protective tarp. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

Part of the canopy of the Let's Go Fishing pontoon boat has been stolen.

Ron Norenberg, chairman of the Headwaters Lakes Area Chapter of the non-profit organization, told the Enterprise that the theft occurred on Aug. 23 in the Ace Hardware parking lot, where the boat is regularly parked.

"It has a dual canopy," Norenberg explained. "Somebody took the front half off, and they crawled across the pontoon. We had the cover on, and they broke a bunch of the poles underneath that hold the cover up. They broke those and just disappeared."

Talking via cell phone, he added, "It's a hardship for us, because we still have some outings scheduled. Without the canopy, we don't have sun protection. In fact, we're on the river right now. Thank goodness, it's not too terribly warm a day, so that we're able to sit in the sun, but definitely by next summer we're going to have to replace it."

Let's Go Fishing provides opportunities for nursing home residents, Developmental Achievement Center clients and disabled veterans to get out on the water.

"Even though for many of them it's just a ride, at least they have a chance to see the lakes other than from the shoreline," said Norenberg. "But without the canopy, they're sitting out in direct sunlight. Especially in July or early August, when it's really hot, it's hard to take them out without having some protection for them."

He said the organization has "just about got the pontoon paid for" and he estimated that replacing the stolen canopy will cost at least $600 to $800.

"It means more fundraising, more donations, and more work," he said, "but we'll keep going, because these people are enjoying what they're getting from being on the water."

Noting that the pontoon still has the back half of its canopy, Norenberg said, "We'll keep on and finish our summer out."

Norenberg said the theft was reported to the Park Rapids Police Department, but he considers it unlikely that the stolen awning will be identified. "They were going to check some cameras in the area, but I don't know of any that would have been at the point they ran out of," he said.

Park Rapids Police Chief Jeff Appel said about the theft, "It's sad to see something being stolen from such a good organization. I would hope that whoever took it would have enough common sense to bring it back. Otherwise, we'll continue investigating it."

Appel added, "In cases like this, where there is no evidence and no suspects, sometimes it's hard to investigate. We would encourage anyone who would have any knowledge to come forward with information that could lead to recovery of the property or a suspect."

Regarding possible motives for the crime, Norenberg said, "I don't know why they would steal it, other than if they had a pontoon and they just thought that this thing was going to fit theirs. But they're not made for just anyone. This is a big pontoon, so it's got a special canopy."

His message to the community, Norenberg said, is that "we're sorry to see things like this happen. We're out here trying to serve those who do not have the ability to do it for themselves. It's an expense that we're going to have, to raise money to purchase a new one and replace it."

Anyone interested in helping the organization can send a donation to Headwaters Chapter of Let's Go Fishing, P.O. Box 243, Park Rapids, MN 56470, or contact a member of the chapter.

To assist the police with information about the crime, call 237-2711.