SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


South Tongass Cleanup
By Jerry Cegelske


November 27, 2007
Tuesday AM

In April of 2003, I took a ride with Richard Burton who gave me what was known to others in the Borough as "The Burton Tour". This was not a tour for tourists, although some may have been interested in it. We started one morning at the end of North Tongass at Settler's Cove. Sadly to say, we didn't get very far before Dick told me to pull over and check out trash that had been dumped at one of the pull outs. It was inspected and marked on the map. Sometimes we only traveled a block or so before we stopped again to view more trash that had been dumped. It was amazing how much trash had been dumped along the road. Pull outs, Whipple Creek, Mud Bight, and other areas were littered.

We stopped for lunch and then continued the "tour" south of town. That is where we found the really large dump sites.

At 8.5 Mile S. Tongass past Whitman Creek, I climbed down the bank and checked the vehicles that had been dumped there, a hundred yards later was another dump site.

At mile 10.75 S. Tongass, I used a rope tied to a guardrail to safely go down to the largest dump site of them all. I counted at least 12 vehicles that I could identify, along with appliances, furniture, barrels and hundreds of other items dumped along the shoreline of George Inlet.

In 2004, volunteers helped to clean up Mud Bight, Whipple Creek and Whipple Spur, Knudson Cove, and other areas. In 2005 volunteers cleaned up Revilla Road from Ward Cove to Lake Harriett Hunt. In 2006 and 2007 volunteers, mostly from Ketchikan Youth Court worked cleaning up many of the areas on North Tongass. Sadly, many of them were littered and trashed again shortly after they were cleaned up.

In 2006, after trying to find a source of funding for a clean up of the South Tongass areas, a grant was obtained in June from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of their Alaska Coastal Program. This provided $35,000 for the removal of debris from the Whitman Creek and South Tongass near shore areas to conserve coastal ecosystems for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people.

Due to the awarding of the grant relatively late in the year and the need to offer the dangerous and difficult removal of vehicles and large items on a competitive bid, nothing was done on the project last year. Work started on the project in April with both volunteers and contracted work.

It is only when a project of this scope is started that you become aware of all the obstacles that come up. On paper it looks easy and straightforward, in practice it becomes very difficult. The road work south of town became a challenge to deal with as the contractor could only come out even on the project if he could keep his people and equipment working, not stuck in construction traffic in the numerous delays. Who knows how long ago some of the vehicles had been dumped there, but many were there long enough to severely deteriorate. When the contractor pulled them up, they came apart in several pieces, thus tripling or quadrupling the work load. Some days when the weather was great to work in, it was also great weather for road construction, but bad for moving junk vehicles and appliances to be processed or recycled.

As a result of the road construction and other delays, the material was collected and stacked along South Tongass when the weather was good. To the chagrin of tour operators and guides, additional delays prevented its removal. Finally after many miscues, the material was removed in October and is on its way to be recycled.

I would like to thank the volunteers that helped with the clean up, especially members of the crew of the Acushnet who worked to clean up an especially dirty area near the large waterfall South of town. If it belonged in the landfill, it was dumped there.

"Thanks" is also due to the Ketchikan business community members who helped, as without their willingness to take on a project of this type, and exercise their imagination in designing tools to do the job, the trash would still be there. They assisted in the removal and disposal of materials and ensured that it will be removed from the island and recycled for future use.

Jerry Cegelske
Ketchikan, AK

About: Jerry Cegelske is the Borough Code Enforcement Officer and Project Officer

jpg Junk Truck

An old truck at Mile 10.75 S. Tongass

A collection of dumped vehicle

Accumulated trash dumped at Mile 10.75

Old truck and freezer

Old car dumped at Mile 8.5 S. Tongass

Old cars removed from the George Inlet Shoreline

More old cars

Part way through the clean up at Mile 10.75, note the slope of the rocks.

Some of the trash removed from Mile 10.75

More trash

Junk BMW motorcycle

Pile of junk vehicle removed from the George Inlet shoreline

Wade Purdy of Purdy's Towing removing an old junker that has broken into pieces


Received November 26, 2007 - Published November 27, 2007


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Ketchikan, Alaska