What do you do when cars are abandoned on Maine islands?

(photo courtesy of city of Portland)

(photo courtesy of city of Portland)

Interesting story coming out of City Hall this afternoon.

It’s easy to imagine abandoned cars alongside the highway or down a rural dirt road on the mainland somewhere. Somebody breaks down and reaches the conclusion his or her beater just isn’t worth the money it would take to fix it up, so they pull the license plates off and walk away.

That’s not legal to do, but people do it.

What’s harder to imagine is people doing it on an island. And furthermore, what to do about it when people do do it on an island.

It’s no longer as simple as sending over a tow truck to clean it up.

There may or may not be a tow truck on the island. Once a tow truck operator has it, where does he or she they take it?

This has apparently become something of an unusual problem on Peaks Island off the coast of Portland in recent years. According to a news release today from the city of Portland, residents had become frustrated by the increasing number of junkers that had been left scattered around the island.

They brought their concerns to a recent Peaks Island Council meeting, and the Portland police responded by helping to move 12 abandoned or irreparable cars off the approximately one-square-mile island.

Officer Dan Rose worked with the vehicle owners he could identify to walk them through the salvage and car donation paperwork. He coordinated with Kamp Masonry and Landscaping to tow the scrap cars to marine transport firm Lionel Plante Associates, which helped out by agreeing to ship the vehicles to the mainland.

Portland Public Services employees hauled the cars off the ferry and handed them over to CIA Salvage of Limerick. Donated vehicles are worth something — which is why you always hear National Public Radio and other organizations asking for them — and in the Peaks Island case, any proceeds from scrap steel or resale went to benefit the Peaks Island Children’s Workshop, the local American Legion post, Peaks Island Baptist Church and a heating oil assistance fund.

“I think this fell under community problem solving. It’s community policing 101,” said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who credited Ross with leading the police department’s involvement in the effort. “The definition of community policing is to work with neighborhoods to solve long term problems, and that particular problem has been around for a long time. This was a case of a lot of good people getting involved to make something happen. I’m really proud we were able to play a part in this.”

So it took a lot of work and the good will of local business leaders in order to clean up this island’s abandoned car problem. Something to consider if you’re thinking about leaving your junker a few miles out from the mainland.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.