The forest is not a personal junkyard


February 23, 2022 | View PDF

The U.S. Forest Service wants to clean up and resurface the parking area at Roosevelt Harbor. Not because the abandoned vehicles are unsightly, though many are getting wrapped around the axle with plant life. It’s because the oil, gasoline and fluids that leak from the cars, trucks or ATVs can seep into and through the soil and into the waters at Zarembo Island.

The first task is to identify all the owners so that the agency can hire a contractor to move the 70 or so vehicles off the lot, clean it up, regrade it, restore and improve drainage and culverts, returning to the lot only those cars and trucks with owners who raise their hands.

The harbor, just a dozen miles from Wrangell’s City Dock, is a popular spot for deer hunters and recreational campers, offering many miles of old logging roads for drivable access into the interior of the island. And because it’s popular, keeping it clean and pollution-free is especially important — and healthy.

Wrangell District Ranger Clint Kolarich said the agency isn’t looking to seize, impound, ticket or sink any of the working vehicles with identified owners. It’s OK to park your working pickup at the lot. It just wants to know which are unclaimed — likely inoperable — so that they can remove them as part of the cleanup and resurfacing project. Knowing the owners will help in putting together that list.

Kolarich last week said the Forest Service has “had a 50% to 60% response rate” in identifying ownership of the vehicles. The agency wants to get the work done this summer — before the start of deer hunting season.

The agency should not have to ask and wait for people to claim ownership of vehicles left at the site to rust, leak and become entangled with the forest floor. Owners should do it because it’s the right thing.

Sadly, this is not a new problem. It has lingered for years. In 2018, the Forest Service reported there were 33 registered vehicles on the island, but staff counted 73 vehicles in assorted states from working order to decay near Roosevelt Harbor. “Some of them haven’t moved in years,” a Forest Service official said in 2018. “Some of them have vegetation or are completely blocked in.”

The parking area is not designated as a dumping site for abandoned vehicles, nor is parking space unlimited. Give the underbrush and runoff waters a break, call the Forest Service, report your vehicle and help the agency’s effort to clean up the site.

If the forest could talk, it would thank you.

Wrangell Sentinel


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