GREAT FALLS — “Keep Runnin," a statue of Great Falls cross-country coach Branch Brady, was vandalized in early November.
The Great Falls Park & Recreation and Police Departments were notified of the vandalism on November 4th.
“They were able to grab one of coach Brady’s legs and they twisted it around, until the bronze shattered at one of the points on the lower leg, and they of course twisted the entire statue around,” said Kevin Vining, Parks Manager for Great Falls Park & Recreation.
The creator of the statue, Kristian La Cour Madsen, said on Facebook: "The statue has been removed and is safe with the Park and Rec dept. We have a great plan with a local master welder craftsman who is helping to get it put back together stronger and better than it was. Hope to have it back up soon!"
It has now been over a week, and the investigation continues to determine who broke the statue and why.
As of Tuesday, the statue is gone and is being repaired by welder Paul Thompson, who plans on strengthening the statue so that this can't happen again.
Coach Brady was the head cross country coach at CMR from 1974 until 2002, and then returned as an assistant coach in 2013. Over his career he coached 11 state champion teams. The statue, Keep Runnin’, was designed by Kristian la Cour-Madsen and put in West Bank Park in June of 2019.
Vandalism is not uncommon occurrence in Great Falls, with 532 reports in 2022 and 460 since January of 2023.
In the city’s parks however, there has been a slight increase in vandalism.
“In reference to the city parks, we have seen an uptick in those,” said Lieutenant Doug Mahlum of the Great Falls Police Department. “For instance, since all of 2023 until today's date, we've had 14 incidents of vandalism, whereas all of 2022 we had six, 2021 we had two, in 2020 we had ten. Something notable about 2023, of the 14, five of those reached the felony threshold, meaning there was damages in excess of 1500 dollars.”
While vandalism can seem like an unimportant crime, especially when compared to violent crimes, it can actually become a big problem if not cut off early on.
“Vandalism oftentimes is seen as a low hanging fruit in the in the world of criminal justice. However, there's theories out there that if we allow it to take a foothold, it'll continue,” Mahlum said.
Even though vandalism can appear to be a reactive crime, as in something that can only be managed and not prevented, that is not the case.
“Well, certainly there’s lots of things out there that can be done,” Vining said, “There’s volunteer programs, adopt a park programs, and then of course just having extra sets of eyes on there.”
All acts of vandalism should be reported to the police as well. The public parks are closed from dusk to dawn, and any activity going on in the parks during those hours should be reported.
“If you see something, say something. Don’t assume somebody else has reported it,” Mahlum said.
The Great Falls Park and Recreation and Police Department are urging anybody with information to report it, anonymously or not. Park & Recreation can be reached at 406-771-1265. Police can be reached at 406-727-7688.