According to the Tongass National Forest District Rangers, there is a growing problem with abandoned vehicles and long-term parking on remote road systems near Petersburg and Wrangell.
Rangers claim these vehicles are impacting public and contractor access to public lands, creating a safety concern, contaminating the environment with hazardous materials and creating an eyesore for the public.
The Ranger Districts are responding to public requests to control the problem by designating long-term parking areas at Roosevelt Harbor, St. Johns Harbor and Anita Bay in the Wrangell District and Thomas Bay, Portage Bay and Tonka in the Petersburg District.
Individuals may park in these areas for more than 14 days by annually registering their vehicles, including all terrain vehicles, ATVs, and trailers at the district offices. The registration process is free and requires only a description of the vehicle and proof of ownership, along with a copy of the owner's identification and local contact information.
The District Rangers understand the importance of these remote road systems for recreation, hunting and subsistence use. They also understand the expense and effort of getting vehicles to remote road systems and the nature of the long hunting season in the area. However, they want to remove the existing abandoned vehicles and avoid accumulating them in the future with minimal inconvenience to the public.
“We're looking for more accountability from people who keep vehicles on these remote road systems. There were more than 40 vehicles left at Roosevelt Harbor at the end of last summer. We're hoping we can do this without a permitting process or formal closures and it will all depend on the response we get,” Wrangell Ranger Bob Dalrymple said.
Petersburg Ranger Jason Anderson added, “We encourage use of these road systems, and we understand it's expensive to transport a vehicle from town to these places. Unfortunately, abandoned vehicles have become a messy and expensive burden on the taxpayer.”
Both Dalrymple and Anderson said the current situation leaves little incentive for vehicle owners to retrieve their broken, inoperable vehicles from public lands and that it's time to start cleaning up.
“Our interest is to keep this simple, and give it a try. If interest at these locations increases we may have to consider a more formal permitting system, and if we can't reduce the occurrence of abandoned vehicles becoming a burden, we'll ask our law enforcement division to ramp up their efforts,” Anderson said.
The Rangers will also begin to clean up the existing problem by identifying and removing the abandoned vehicles. Unclaimed vehicles, regardless of condition, will be considered abandoned property and removed.
Individuals who wish to keep their vehicles at Roosevelt Harbor, St. John Harbor or Anita Bay are asked to register at the Wrangell Ranger District. Those who want to keep their vehicles at Portage Bay, Thomas Bay or Tonka are asked to register at the Petersburg Ranger District.
Registration should occur by March 1, 2013.