JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service issued a deadline to the operator of an Alaska island boat shop to tear down the historic complex and leave, but the owner said the agency’s demands are unrealistic.
The federal agency ordered Sam Romey to vacate Wolf Creek Boatworks on Prince of Wales Island, CoastAlaska reported Thursday.
Tongass Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart said in an Aug. 14 letter that the boathouse and shop building must be removed by Dec. 15.
Ownership of the land parcel occupied by the shop is scheduled to be transferred to the Alaska Mental Health Trust.
Romey is unable to remove the structures and the Forest Service therefore has left him with the options of destroying the buildings himself or leaving them to collapse, he said.
Romey said he hired an attorney and intends to dispute the order in court.
“They haven’t given me any choice in the matter,” Romey said. “It’s either I’m in a forced eviction with no compensation, or I fight it. Well, I got 25 years into it. What’s another five years of fighting them?”
Wolf Creek Boatworks has operated for about 80 years using power from a century-old hydro turbine.
Historians have said the operation is a key piece of the region’s maritime heritage and was considered eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s, but was never listed.
Supporters note the shop remains open for business, servicing boat owners in eastern Prince of Wales communities that would otherwise have to travel to Ketchikan.
The Forest Service has an obligation to catalog sites of historic value lost or destroyed in the transfer to the mental health trust. The agency said if the trust inherits the buildings, they must be managed in accordance with state preservation laws.
The Forest Service and the trust authority agreed to a one-year extension on efforts to record and document historic sites because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.