Public meeting planned for Ketchikan
January 09, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - For many people, cherished memories are the most important things the Tongass National Forest produces and recreation sites, such as Forest Service cabins, help create those memories.
That's why the Forest Service is crafting a "Recreation Site - Facility Master Plan" for the nation's largest national forest. The new plan will reduce backlogged maintenance items by 25 percent over the next five years and will result in improved recreation sites.
"In the long run, this will enhance recreational experiences for forest users because facilities, such as cabins, will be better maintained," said Tongass National Forest Recreation, Lands and Minerals Staff Officer Scott Fitzwilliams. "In order to accomplish that goal, we need to develop more efficient ways to manage the sites, look at alternative funding, and close a few sites that get very little or no use."
This is why public participation is going to be so vital, said Fitzwilliams.
"The number and variety of facilities we are trying to manage on the Tongass for recreation use can't be sustained given the rising costs for materials, transportation and personnel," he said. "We will be working very closely with the public to decide the priority of sites to continue to maintain and improve to ensure this forest-wide effort meets their needs."
Tongass employees currently manage more than 300 developed recreation sites, including two major visitor centers, 150 public-use cabins, and a number of viewing platforms, shelters and campgrounds.
"Recreation use of the forest is important for local people, tourists and commercial operators," said Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole. "It's crucial we provide well-maintained recreation sites and facilities to accommodate people. Many facilities were built in the 60s and 70s and don't adequately reflect the current use or desires of the public. It's time we clean some things up and provide a better service where it's needed."
According to the Forest Service, the plan will be a "living" document that will be revised annually to accommodate suggestions or changed conditions. Tongass district offices will be holding public meetings throughout the winter and spring.
"We encourage members of the public to work with their local district offices to better understand the process and to provide feedback," said Cole. "We want to ensure Tongass recreation sites continue creating special memories for people."
The public meeting for Ketchikan is slated for 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, 50 Main Street. The meeting will be held in the Learning Center.
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