Two Forest Service shelters in the Wrangell Ranger District were vandalized earlier this month and officials are looking for information.
Bob Lippert is the developed recreation manager for the Wrangell Ranger District. He says sometime between September 2nd and 11th, the North Wrangell High Country Shelter on Wrangell Island was vandalized.
“There was a fire started on the floor of the shelter. The floor is plywood and the fire burned all the way through the floor and damaged some of the structure underneath including a post and one of the joists. So there’s a hole all the way through the floor. You can see the ground underneath,” says Lippert.
He says that in a separate incident, vandals also damaged the Kunk Lake Shelter on Etolin Island.
“The report was a lot of food waste all over the place and garbage everywhere. Also, somebody had started a fire on the deck over there as well. It burned a hole through either the porch of the shelter or the deck around the shelter,” says Lippert.
The damage was reported by people visiting the shelters.
Lippert says those visitors tried to clean up the Kunk Lake site as best as they could. But, they had limited space to pack out the trash that was strewn about.
He says access is a big problem when it comes to repairing damage at many of these shelters. It costs more time and money to get to remote sites.
“The High Country shelter is over a three-mile hike up there to carry a piece of plywood. It might involve helicopter time. So, it could get into the thousand dollar range or more just to repair the hole,” says Lippert.
And money is an issue for the Forest Service. He says some other projects may fall by the wayside just to scrape up enough money to fix these shelters.
“Recreation funding on the Tongass is being cut every year. You know, we’re facing another possible 30% cut next year. With that comes reduced money to just do general maintenance. So, anything out of the ordinary that happens—like this—cuts that much deeper into it,” says Lippert.
But, Lippert says, that’s not main reason he thinks it’s so unfortunate when people mistreat these recreation sites.
“I know for me, personally, it’s not so much the trouble it causes me or my job or the Forest Service. It’s just that they’re ruining it for the next people that go there. And it’s a small enough community that most likely the next people that go there could possibly be somebody that you know or you’re related to. It’s just frustrating to make something worse than it was before for the next person that comes along,” says Lippert.
Lippert says the High Country shelter will probably be closed until it’s been repaired. A hole in the floor is a safety hazard for visitors.
He says the Kunk Lake shelter will most likely remain open, unless the damage is found to be more extensive.
The Forest Service is asking anyone with information about the vandalism to call them at 874-2323.