SITKA (AP) -- The U.S. Forest Service will allow private memorials to be placed on national forest lands in Alaska despite a national policy that generally forbids such markers.
The Alaska policy, approved recently by Forest Service officials in Washington, D.C., allows temporary markers up to four feet high and three feet wide. The new policy came after two large memorials were placed in the Tongass National Forest two years ago in memory of two Sitka residents.
''The national policy would have required us to remove the many unauthorized monuments that have been placed on the national forests in Alaska over the years,'' said Regional Forester Rick Cables in a statement. He said the special Alaska policy recognizes the Alaska tradition of placing markers for loved ones, while being fair to all users of the national forests.
The agency decided to act after large memorials were erected in memory of two young Sitkans, Kirby Reid and Calvin Carlson Jr., who died in separate accidents.
Calvin Carlson Sr. has agreed to take down an 11-foot aluminum cross he erected at Mud Bay, one of his son's favorite places, after the 19-year-old died in an ATV accident in 1998. And the Carlson family has agreed to move a 3-by-4-foot plaque they placed there to a cabin or shelter they plan to build in their son's memory.
A similar cross was erected in Olga Strait in memory of Kirby Reid, a high school senior killed in a boating accident in 1998. A five-foot-tall wooden cross nearby will be allowed to stay, but the Forest Service wants the larger cross moved back into the woods, according to Jim Caplan, deputy regional forester in Alaska. Shannon and Darby Reid, parents of Kirby Reid, had asked U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski to intervene on their behalf when the issue came up last year.
Caplan said the markers were beautiful but they amounted to ''putting private property on public land.'' He said his agency was making a significant compromise in allowing exceptions in Alaska to the national policy.
''You can imagine what would happen in the Lower 48 if this was allowed,'' he said.
Caplan said there was no timetable for moving the memorials.
''There's no rush,'' he said. ''We want to be respectful about timing.''
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