No need for vigilantes or trailhead guards in Cordova

Pulling my riverboat out at Alaganik Landing after a trip to the duck cabin, with the truck safely left unattended for several days. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

Oh my. Surprise, surprise. More headlines about crimes in Alaska’s biggest city are in the news. Is there a day that goes by without something bad happening in Anchor Town?

Two of the latest stories, in the May 6 edition of the Anchorage Daily News: “Anchorage has a crime problem. Vigilantes aren’t the answer”; and “Some crime-weary hikers are pursuing their own solutions to trailhead break-ins.”

The vigilante piece was actually written by the ADN editorial board, and mentions that residents are so frustrated with high crime rates that “it’s not surprising that some have tried to take matters into their hands by following suspected thieves, confronting them and even attempting to perform citizens’ arrests or recover in some cases.”

It goes on to explain in considerable detail why this is not a good idea, as the “self-styled good guys who see themselves as helping police are courting disaster.”

Yippee. Can’t you see a high-speed vigilante zipping down Cordova’s Main Street in hot pursuit at two in the morning? At least he wouldn’t have to worry about running any red lights.

Yet it was the second story that really caught my attention. It describes how hikers in Anchorage often return after a pleasant escape from the stress of big-city living to discover the windshields of their vehicles smashed and belongings inside gone. It has become so bad that grassroots efforts such as volunteer guards have shown up, with the goal of deterring trailhead crime.

Here in Cordova, many of us routinely leave our vehicles parked near popular local trailheads, such as the Crater Lake trail near the Skater’s Cabin at 1.5 mile of Power Creek Road; the trail up the Ski Hill just six blocks above Main Street; the Haystack trail at mile 19.2 on the Copper River Highway; the McKinley Lake-Pipeline Lake trail system at mile 21.6 on the Copper River Highway; or the Heney Ridge trail at 5.1 mile on Whitshed Road.

Midway through a trek to Pipeline Lakes, my daughter Heidi and grandson Huck know the right way to get back to the truck, where they know cold refreshments await.
Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

In fact, hiking is a daily passion for many locals, yet trailhead crime seems to be almost non-existent. Heck, I often leave an ice chest containing a chilled post-hike refresher in the open back of my pick-up to rehydrate following longer treks, and it is always there, with contents intact, upon return.

Often, when spending several days at our duck cabin at Pete Dahl, my truck is left parked at somewhat isolated Alaganik Landing, three miles below the Copper River Highway at mile 16.9.

Yet I have never returned to discover vandalism or theft.

Perhaps part of the reason for lack of problems stems from considerable traffic near some of the trailheads.

But a bigger reason for the lack of “smash and dash” is simply that this is Cordova, and surely respect, trust and security should headline a list of the reasons why we live here.

After all, how many of us, after a three-day visit by ferry or plane to the Big City, heave a sigh of relief to be back home again?

On an overcast morning, a pair of vehicles are left unattended by hikers headed up the Ski Hill trail. On nicer days the parking lot is crowded with empty vehicles, yet there are no problems with vandalism or theft.
Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times
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Dick Shellhorn
Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at [email protected].

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