Point Baker Considers Post Office Loss

Photo by Joe Viechnicki: Point Baker's waterfront.

What’s a post office mean to a small community? Just ask folks in Point Baker, a Southeast fishing town threatened with the loss of one of its few institutions.

Point Baker’s
fewer than 30 year-round residents live along a small bay on the remote northwest tip of Southeast’s Prince of Wales Island. Others come to visit its few small lodges and bed and breakfasts. Or they stop to pick up mail or supplies while trolling or gillnetting in nearby waters.

That makes its post office an important link to the rest of the world.

“It’s one of the only real benefits we receive from the federal government – that we can see,” says longtime resident Sam Carlson.

He remembers the days when a freight boat carried staples into Point Baker every few weeks. That’s no longer the case.

“All of our groceries, right now, are mailed out from Ketchikan by parcel post. And it’s actually almost reasonable, the money you pay. To lose that, you’d have to run into town and the closest town is 50 miles away by boat or airplane. It would create many hardships for just about everybody out here,” he says.

Carlson is one of many Alaskans worried that the local post office might close. Point Baker, Douglas, Circle, Kobuk and Platinum are among three dozen towns on a tentative closure list.

Some 3,600 post offices nationwide are threatened under a federal money-saving plan. Carlson says people need to know his town’s post office, in a multipurpose building, is important.

“It actually contributes a lot to the community, the money we get from the rent from the federal government. It helps run the community building so when other people do come in they can use the facilities, get off their boats and go check out the library or whatever,” he says.

Point Baker is a short boat trip away from Port Protection, a slightly larger Prince of Wales Island fishing town. Its residents also use Point Baker’s post office.

Beyond that, the nearest towns of any size are Wrangell, Petersburg and Craig. All are 50 or more miles away – by boat or small plane.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.

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