October 18, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 42

Coho fishing stirs concerns about trash, waste

The annual fall migration of fishermen to Haines is generating complaints about roadside trash and human waste.

Natasha Coleman, who lives near 25 Mile Haines Highway, said she recently cleaned up three boxes of empty cans and bottles and food garbage from a state sand pit near her property.

Campers were parked there over the weekend. “When they were leaving town, you can see where they pulled over, dumped it and left it,” she said.

Coleman also has picked trash out of ditches because she doesn’t like to see it by her home. It’s unfair for residents to bear the burden of removing visitors’ trash, she said.

“If the town invites fishermen here, they should be the ones to put out dumpsters and toilets, or make them stay in town at a campground,” Coleman said.

Other residents have voiced similar concerns, including highway residents who didn’t want to be named in this story.

Jane Pascoe, who interviews anglers for the state Department of Fish and Game, said Canadian visitors have been talking to her about the mess. One angler said he felt so badly about it he would look into having a Canadian fishing group fund port-a-potties and trash bins near the airport, she said.

“They’re embarrassed by the amount of garbage some of their fellow Canadians are leaving behind,” Pascoe said.

Coleman isn’t alone in thinking Haines bears some responsibility to provide for visitors. Restaurant and gift shop owner Dot Shackford said the town needs to put out “big buckets” for trash. She has seen visitors and residents sneaking trash into dumpsters at the harbor.

“If there’s no other place to put it, what are people going to do? They’ll dump it any place… If we’re going to invite people to town, we need to put out a few trash cans for them,” Shackford said.

Others who drive the highway regularly say the issue is bigger than litter from visiting fishermen.

Keith Houlberg, who makes the drive to town daily from his home near 26 Mile, said roadside dumping and littering have increased year-round since he arrived here in 1979.

“In springtime, the beer cans and aluminum along the highway is horrible. I don’t think it’s a Canadian issue,” he said.

Tourism director Tanya Carlson said complaints about roadside trash haven’t made it to her office, but that funding for trash cans or porta-potties could be sought through the state Department of Transportation, the state Division of Parks or National Scenic Highway funds.

A meeting on developing an interpretive master plan for the scenic highway project will be held early next month, she said.

A restroom and trash cans are maintained by the state at 19 Mile, she said. Another trash can is at a 25 Mile picnic area.

Pullouts owned by Sealaska regional tribal corporation at 4 Mile and 7 Mile are two of the most heavily used areas during fall fishing.

Chilkoot Indian Association President Harriet Brouillette said Sealaska and the CIA are working on an agreement that would give the tribe joint management authority over those sites.

Brouillette said she’d like to see junky trailers removed from 7 Mile and signs posted at 4 Mile, although she’s unsure at this point what the message would be. Ironically, a “historic” designation at the two sites limits development but isn’t keeping the areas from being trashed, she said.

“We may have to work with the borough to come up with some kind of plan,” Brouillette said. “We don’t mind people fishing there, but people have to use the area with some kind of respect.”

One option might be prohibiting overnight camping at those spots, she said.