Dozer damage destroys dreams

The stolen bulldozer drove right through Jeanine Baker’s new glass studio, splintering it. Then the machine chugged over to the Bakers’…

The stolen bulldozer drove right through Jeanine Baker’s new glass studio, splintering it.

Then the machine chugged over to the Bakers’ camper, flipped it off its stand and smashed it to pieces, before heading toward the family pickup.

The dozer pushed their truck nearly 30 metres into the flattened building — drove up and over the hood, crushing the motor, before driving back over the shattered building.

The two-storey, six-by-8.4-metre studio was nearly finished.

It was being built to give the Crag Lake artist better access to her Whitehorse clients.

Baker and her husband Paul were going to live in a small caretakers’ residence above the studio while their son attended high school in Whitehorse.

They also planned to build smaller artist studios to rent.

That changed on Friday, when the Bakers got a call from their neighbour at Mt. Sima notifying them of the vandalism.

“I was walking through the bush wondering what am I going to see here,” said Jeanine on Tuesday.

“And then I came around the corner and there’s the building flattened and the remnants of the pickup.”

The couple started building the studio last fall.

“We poured the footings,” said Jeanine.

“Then we had a cold November, so we shut it down for the year.”

During the summer, the Bakers focused on their seasonal business sewing boat tops.

They resumed work on the studio in August.

“It was just us building it, with the odd friend here and there,” said Jeanine.

“We put up the whole first floor.”

The second floor was awaiting the roof trusses.

They were to arrive Monday.

“It was a good-size building and it was almost clad to weather.”

They’d used up $18,000 of their line of credit building the studio.

It wasn’t insured.

Whoever was driving the bulldozer must have known what they were doing, said Jeanine.

“Because it was very precise — they didn’t miss anything — the building was lying in pieces.”

The dozer was parked on the neighbour’s lot. He had hired the machine and a driver to help clear his property.

No one is living there yet, said Jeanine.

And the property isn’t visible from the road.

To start a bulldozer all you need is a master key and enough know-how to warm up the glow plugs, she said.

“Other machine operators had some issues with people trying to start up machinery — I just found this out,” said Jeanine.

The Bakers took a day to come to terms with the wreckage.

“We were in disbelief and kind of defeated,” said Jeanine.

“But Saturday was a new start.”

With the help of some neighbours, they began cleaning up the mess.

“Six of us tore it right back to parts and pieces — we all had a tear in our eye” she said.

“We picked through the remnants of the camper and cut it into small pieces so we could carry it away. There were three piles — burnables, garbage and salvageables, like hinges and handles and doors.

“We’re builders — we save everything.

“We might be able to get a small building out of the splinters.”

The Bakers are hoping they can salvage enough material to build a 3.6-by-4.8-metre studio.

“We’re looking at turning the lumber we have left into a smaller building because we can cut the ends off and salvage anything we can. And we’ll cut the tin down wherever there aren’t bulldozer marks.

“The biggest issue is replacing the pickup truck,” she said.

Jeanine has no idea why her property was targeted.

The only possibility is that someone was angry the Bakers had blocked the old Mt. Sima access road.

Their property straddles the old road, which was still used regularly by ATV riders.

“We told everybody we were going to have to shut her down,” said Jeanine.

“And everybody was OK with that — only one guy sped off into the dust.”

They blocked the road in late August.

After this, the Bakers’ camper was broken into twice.

“That’s the only thing we’ve done that might have bothered someone,” she said.

“But we’ve never had a harsh word with anyone in the area — nothing.

“We just carry on with life and we’re ordinary people.”

During her classes, Jeanine had started telling people that pretty soon she’d be doing drop-ins at the new studio.

“We were hoping to live in there later this winter,” she said.

“Everyone was pretty happy — then this happened.”

The police didn’t find much evidence, said Jeanine.

“Maybe the person will never get caught, but they will have to live with what they’ve done on their own.”

Yukon Artists at Work is hosting a benefit for the Bakers on Sunday, December 9th.

The gallery will be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. for cocktails, music and art.

There will be art sales, auctions and prizes.