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Why airboaters get a bad name




Litterbugs inspire bureaucracy

November 21, 2004

Sometime in October, airboat-driving hunters trashed three popular campsites in the Chain Lakes area. They left behind beer kegs, empty 55-gallon drums, a hastily constructed tent platform, half-empty condiment containers sitting in a creek and a 5-gallon bucket of dog food. At another camp, bear bait was left behind -- along with beer cans, shotgun shells and other trash.

Predictably, bears soon scoured the area, leaving tracks in newly fallen snow.

Robert Howard, a longtime Palmer resident who hunts, hikes, fishes and rides his dirt bike along the nearby Knik River mud flats, saw the trashed camps.

He was appalled.

"This is a beautiful birch forest ... a perfect spot to overnight," Howard said. "It's a crying shame the mess it's in now."

To anyone familiar with the Chain Lakes area, located near the Jim Lake-Swan Lake area of the Butte, this is hardly surprising. Nearby is Jim Creek, notorious for junked cars and errant gunfire.

But the area is also spectacularly beautiful, with sharp peaks, trees and interconnected lakes. Moose, bears, coyotes, swans, salmon, trout and other animals can be found there.

Hovering above it all are views of Knik Glacier.

In many other places, this would be a treasured park, protected for all to enjoy. Here, it's a dump -- a place to poach game, shoot guns and ride four-wheelers wherever one pleases, even across salmon streams. It is essentially lawless, and I'm sure many would like to keep it that way.

Full disclosure: my wife and I live near the area, so I see not only its beauty but its ugliness. Old televisions are a popular item to dump. So are old cars. Right now there's an old sedan crashed into a cottonwood tree above Jim Lake. It used to be blue. Now it's black after someone torched it.

On one hike through the woods, I spooked a silver-coated coyote. Then I rounded a corner and came across bags and bags of trash -- some actually sorted by plastic and cardboard. Why someone would take the time to sort their trash then drive all the way to the woods to dump it, rather than drop it at the landfill, is beyond me.

Once, someone took the time to place dozens of empty shell boxes on bushes near the road -- target practice, I'm sure. But if you can take the time to do that, surely you can take the time to pick up after yourself. Pack out what you pack in; why is that concept so hard to understand?

It seems silly to have to write a column suggesting people not litter. But what moved me to write was the profound disrespect these people have for this area.

I'm fine with people shooting and riding four-wheelers; I'm fine with people trashing an old car, if that's their idea of fun and so long as it's legal.

But I draw the line at trashing the land.

A lot of people moved to Alaska to get away from rules. But when you trash and abuse the land, you're inviting rules and bureaucracy.

That's exactly what may happen along state lands in Knik River valley. For the past three years, the Division of Natural Resources has conducted a cleanup to remove junked cars and other debris along the Knik River mudflats. They're getting tired of it and are talking about limiting shooting and four-wheelers in the area.

I'm not willing to go that route yet, but it's obvious that people can't police themselves.

As always, it is a small minority that ruins it for the rest of us. And many of the people who trash the area are not locals but partiers up from Anchorage, I'm told.

I know many people who recreate in the Jim Lake-Swan Lake area and admire its beauty, wildlife and proximity to town.

It isn't that hard. Bring along a couple of garbage bags and pick up after yourself. If not, rules and regulations will surely come.

This column is the opinion of Daily News sports reporter Ron Wilmot. He can be reached at rwilmot@adn.com or 352-6712.

Photo of the trashed campsites appear in Ron Wilmont's article available by clicking on the URL at the top of this post.

You may want to contact Ron Wilmot and inform him that the actions described in his article are NOT condoned by the airboating community and that we support the prosecution of the perpetrators to the full extent of the law, but, more and new laws should NOT be the answer to the problem. I will be.

WaterLizard :(
For those of you interested in contacting Ron Wilmot regarding his article Litterbugs Inspire Bureaucracy, he can be emailed at: sports@adn.com

The email address: rwilmot@adn.com appearing at the bottom of his article does NOT work.

WaterLizard 8)
Yes---this is true as with apples---a few bad ones... A bad deed such as this out weights many good ones. I will contact Mr.Wilmont. We will continue to do our best to be coureous airboaters and create a positive immage. We once rescued the son of an anti-airboater. Well, I know we changed the mind of one person--- a couple of hundred more and we'll be on the way... Thanks to all of you "GOOD ONES" Keep up the good work.