Beach mud sucking in vehicles

Low tide drivers in remote areas being left high and dry

Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2000

It may be a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud, as the old song goes, but don't try beating your treads on the Thane Beach mud.

``(Last) weekend, Saturday and Sunday, my son and I witnessed a total of five vehicles stuck in the far-out tidal waters of Thane Beach,'' said local resident Joan Dangeli. ``I believe many youth and adults believe the beach is more dependable than it is, and they are losing their entire vehicles over their misunderstanding.''

Juneau Police dispatch had only one 911 call about stuck vehicles, at 8:48 p.m. last Sunday, Lt. Walt Bowman of JPD said.

Downtown beaches are controlled by the city, said Steve Gilbertson, lands and resources manager for Juneau. ``But those tidelands such as Thane Beach are owned by the state,'' Gilbertson said.

``I have heard of vehicles getting stuck at low tide at Echo Cove and Eagle Beach over the years,'' Gilbertson added. ``There's probably a group of young kids who like to challenge their vehicles.'' At Echo Cove and Eagle Beach, boulders have been placed along the access road to keep vehicles off the sands, he noted.

Dangeli described a submerged black Chevy pickup, owned by a 17-year-old who had just rebuilt the engine.

``It was a completely new engine and he was crying,'' Dangeli said.

The state has a conditional use permit to extract gravel at Thane Beach, so trucks go back and forth frequently, said Ron Schonenbach, Southeast regional manager for the state Division of Mining, Land and Water.

``I guess I'm not very sympathetic to people getting their vehicles stuck at low tide; it's just common sense not to go out in those areas where sand is soft,'' Schonenbach said. Residents and visitors frequent the area in pink salmon season, and he would ``hate to gate and restrict access.''

Towing is expensive and immersion could be even more so, Schonenback noted.

``You get a vehicle submerged, there's potential for oil and gas going into the marine waters. If the Department of Environmental Conservation wanted to push, they could come down hard on these people,'' he added.

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