Story last updated at 9/30/2009 - 11:33 am
KETCHIKAN - A good hike can be stimulating, so it's appropriate that federal stimulus funds will go toward improving several area hiking trails, including the popular Perseverance Trail.
The Ketchikan-Misty Fjords Ranger District recently was awarded $850,000 for six trail improvement projects. Staff Officer Karen Brand said the funds will pay for much-needed work on Perseverance Trail, Upper Silvis Trail, three trails in the Misty Fjords National Monument and a trail near Hyder.
For Perseverance, Brand said the plan is to convert much of the dilapidated boardwalk to gravel, which is significantly easier and cheaper to maintain. Any sections that can't be converted to gravel will be replaced with new boardwalk, she said.
Perseverance Trail is popular because it is on the road system with the trailhead located in the Ward Lake recreation area. Brand said the boardwalk can be slippery and dangerous, particularly during winter.
The work on Upper Silvis will focus on a section extending from the Upper Silvis Lake dam.
"There's a very mucky, wet section through there where we're probably looking at a reroute and looking at putting gravel in there, too," Brand said.
Forest Service crews are scoping the trail for possible new routes, she said, and there will be an opportunity for the public to weigh in with comments and concerns.
"The idea is that it will allow easier and better access up to the Mahoney Mountain area," Brand said.
The mountain goat population has increased, she said, so the state Department of Fish and Game opened a goat-hunting season. She said her office has heard from hunters who would have appreciated a better trail on which to hike their kill down.
The work in Misty Fjords includes improving Manzanita Trail, Brand said, particularly replacing a logjam crossing that has shifted; Nooya Lake Trail, where crews will replace a bridge that washed away about 20 years ago; and Winstanley Lake Trail, where crews will restore access through an area that a landslide took out in 2007.
Titan Trail in Hyder will get a new bridge over Fish Creek, she said. That trail is near a bear-viewing area that the Forest Service manages, about three miles north of Hyder. She said the creek is about a quarter-mile from the beginning of the 4.5-mile trail.
"People are underutilizing that trail," she said. "If you don't have Xtratufs on, you're not going to cross. The bridge over there will help people use a very beautiful trail."
Brand said Titan Trail gradually leads to an alpine ridge that marks the border between Alaska and British Columbia.
"It's actually my favorite trail on the district," she said. "It's a nice grade with switchbacks up the mountain, then you get these views of the Salmon River. It's gorgeous."
Brand said the six projects have been on the list for a while, but the work had to wait because there wasn't enough money for maintenance.
Other local trail projects are in the works, including a planned new trail leading from the south end of Gravina Island Highway to Black Sands Beach, and planned improvement of a portion of the Rainbird Trail.
The Gravina trail is in the early planning stages, and is a cooperative project between the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and State Parks. Ketchikan State Parks Ranger Mary Kowalczyk said she and a borough representative hiked out a rough route recently, although the route could change by the time the trail is designed.
"We found some good spots, and I think it will be a beautiful trail if it comes to fruition," she said.
The next step is to "get someone who is a real trails expert, get some costs and go from there," she said.
How to fund the project has not been decided, she said.
If the trail could be built exactly the way she wanted, Kowalczyk said, it would be a nonmotorized multi-use trail, wide enough for at least two people to walk side-by-side and easy enough to push a baby buggy. It also would lead through muskeg, brush and forest, she said, passing by some beautiful overlooks and ending up at the beach.
However, she said, "It will all be told when we come up with the cost."
Borough Planning Director Tom Williams said his department was working on how to fund the project. If it were built, he said, the trail would provide new recreational opportunities, and would connect the highway to the other side of Gravina Island. He said that could increase interest in some of the property on Gravina, and spark development.
Williams said he would love to start construction of the trail in 2010, but it all depends on whether funding is available.
Funding also is a potential concern for the planned Rainbird Trail improvement project, spearheaded by the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus. That project will focus on a one-mile section of trail leading from behind the campus toward Third Avenue Bypass.
Part of the Rainbird Trail was improved several years ago, but only the section above the bypass. The unimproved section is muddy and overgrown, the route is unclear and hikers at one point have to wade through a stream.
Once improved, the trail will have a gravel and natural-material path, Campus Director Cathy LeCompte said, plus a culvert and a bridge to help hikers keep their feet dry.
She said students from the UAS archaeology class surveyed the trail to make sure there weren't any important cultural sites that would be disturbed by construction, and they didn't find anything that would stop the project. LeCompte said the hill behind the campus had been used long ago for mining and as an air-raid shelter during World War II, so there were some old tunnels there. However, she said, they all most likely have collapsed.
Another survey reported no fish in the stream that runs through the trail, she said, "which is a good thing. It's green-light-go on all of our reports."
LeCompte said the community has donated about $125,000 for the trail project, and there were two pending grant applications that, if approved, would provide funding for the unimproved section as well as maintenance for the portion that was improved several years ago.
She said the university plans to advertise for construction proposals in January no matter what. If there isn't enough in the bank for the whole project, they'll contract for whatever work they can pay for, she said, and continue looking for funds to finish the project.
"We're hoping that whoever bids on this would be amenable to volunteer help," she said. "We could get volunteer labor to haul gravel and clear brush, etc. The community has been so engaged with this process ... I have no doubt that we'd be able to rally the troops to get this thing done."