Ken Smith/Turnagain Times
A half-dozen abandoned vehicles line the Park-N-Ride parking lot in downtown Girdwood. A person is also believed to be living in an RV (above).
By John Gallup
Special to the Turnagain Times
We all know that Alaska is tough on vehicles, and even the best car or truck sooner or later comes to the end of the trail. Part of the responsibility of owning a vehicle in whatever condition is arranging for the end of its life, just like you would for a family member. It takes a little bit of planning and a little bit of money, but it is something that each of us needs to do.
Every year the Heritage Land Bank and the Girdwood Board of Supervisors have to spend public funds to remove abandoned junk vehicles from Municipal property. Abandoned vehicles are not only eyesores—they represent a safety hazard from broken glass and environmental hazard from leaked fluids. They are litter on a grand scale, and the money could be better spent on the other things we fund: roads, fire and rescue, or parks and recreation programs. It costs about $250 for us to tow a junk vehicle. This covers the towing and the cost of making the vehicle safe for steel recycling. Fluids are removed, and must be disposed of in accordance with environmental regulations.
I have done a casual survey of vehicles as I walk around town, and many of the older ones I see are out of registration but still in use. One I see moving regularly hasn't been registered since 2002. These are the ones we will be faced with towing next year and the year after that unless attitudes change.
There is a temptation to give away an old car or sell it cheaply to someone who wants it, but what often happens is that the person receiving the car fails to register it, and it remains in your name. When this occurs, you will be the one who gets the phone call when it turns up beside the road abandoned by the new or subsequent owner. You may have signed and submitted the release form to DMV, but as the last registered owner, they will still contact you. This happened to me repeatedly with one vehicle, so I no longer sell old vehicles cheaply or give them away.
So what can a person with an old car do? My most recent experience might be a good example. I had a car, which finally checked out at 235,000 miles. Because it was a popular brand, one of the salvage yards in town agreed to take it off my hands for no charge, and I limped it in to them so they could part it out. Not only will the good parts of the car get re-used, the rest will get recycled in time. I would explore this avenue first.
If the junkyard won't take it you might be able to deliver it directly to the auto recycler either under its own power or by towing it yourself for substantially less than the cost of having it towed in. If that isn't an option you should do what we do and shop the various towing companies for the best price and have them come and get it.
One of the hallmarks of Girdwood is the stewardship for the environment, which almost every resident undertakes. It is one of the things that make this place special. As you think about the final disposition of ‘old reliable.” Please guide it into the waste stream in the most responsible way. All it takes is some planning and maybe a little money. Just abandoning it is irresponsible and expensive for everybody.
John Gallup is a member of the Girdwood Board of Supervisors.