While we’re on the subject of islands off the Maine coast, this was a story I wrote in 1989 after seeing a small news story in the Bangor Daily News. I’m sure that Vinalhaven and the other Maine islands that are big enough to have roads and ferry services have more serious problems to worry about. But then, what DO you do with junk cars on an island?
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
VINALHAVEN, Maine (UPI) – Vinalhaven Island’s tiny network of roads has spawned a chronic and difficult waste disposal problem – hundreds of junk cars that rot in back yards and clog illegal junkyards around the island.
Last fall, town officials spread out around the island and conducted a nose count of inoperable automobiles. They found 438 of them, one for every three island residents. The year before, the town rounded up and got rid of another 200 junked autos.
On the mainland, junk cars can simply be hauled off to wrecking yards. Yard operators will often tow the old cars away for free, and may even pay a little if the junker isn’t too old.
But on the islands that dot the Gulf of Maine, getting rid of the junkers is anything but a simple matter.
“Everything is more expensive on the island because of the transportation problem,” said George Putz, a writer and researcher who works for the Island Institute, a mainland-based organization that provides services to the offshore islands.
Vinalhaven’s junk car problem is not unique among the offshore islands. But it may be somewhat more serious because Vinalhaven is big for a coastal island, having more than 1,000 year-round residents. It also has a paved main road and a total road network that covers 45 miles, and the island also is served by a ferry that can carry as many as 17 cars at a time.
When a resident’s car dies, it isn’t usually pushed to the ferry for a final ride to the mainland. More often than not, the old car is simply pushed aside, and another car is purchased to take its place.