Thursday, December 12, 2013
SUTTON ISLAND — The U.S. Postal Service has ended a decades-old tradition in which mail was delivered to this small offshore island by a private ferry service and left in a specially marked trash can on the dock for recipients to pick up.
Postal Service higher-ups got wind of the practice used to serve those living in the island's 25 or so seasonal homes and decided it had to be halted for security reasons. There are no year-round residents.
Shea Howell, who lives in Detroit, Mich., during the winter, said residents will now have to make the 2-mile ocean journey to the post office in Northeast Harbor. ''That can mean a three-hour trip out of your day just to get the mail,'' she said.
The peculiar but cherished method of moving the mail had been used since at least the 1950s, according to residents of Sutton Island, one of five islands that make up the town of Cranberry Isles. The island has no roads to speak of, which is why the odd system came to be.
The practice came to the attention of senior postal officials when an islander called the new postmater in Northeast Harbor to complain that outgoing mail she had placed in the trash can was not being picked up quickly enough, Postal Service spokesman Tom Rizzo said.
After the postmaster, Heidi MacGregor, told her superiors about the situation, all agreed that the practice had to end immediately, Rizzo said.
''It really never should have been allowed,'' he said. ''There's no security to that mail whatsoever.''
Howell said having mail service is important, especially for older residents who stay on the island for several months at a time and rely on deliveries to pay bills, stay in touch with loved ones and even receive essential medications. ''We're not going to give this up easily,'' she said. ''We're going to find some scheme that will work for us.''
Even after the deliveries were halted, the trash can still serves as a meeting spot, but not to the degree it did it in the past, said Andy Potter, who owns a cottage on the island's north shore. He said UPS and FedEx still deliver packages to the can.