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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

A Threat To Ward Creek Trail

By Eric Muench


February 07, 2015
Saturday AM

Over the years extensive trail systems have been built in the Ward, Connell and Perseverance Lakes and Ward Creek and Salvage Road areas. Ward Creek Trail, in the heart of these, is now at risk.

The Ward Creek Trail system leads from Ward Lake parking lot to Last Chance campground. With several creek access spurs and viewing platforms and connecting links to roads, it totals almost two miles of trail. It is one of the highlights of our Ketchikan area recreation and outdoor tourism facilities, used by untold numbers of local hikers and dog walkers, and by guided trail hike businesses serving the visitor industry. With smooth surface and moderate grades, it is useable by the young as well as the elderly. It was built in cooperation by the Forest Service and Ketchikan Gateway Borough using federal and local funding. This valuable public resource is now in danger of being lost.

Background to the Present Situation

In 2003 the Borough received title from the State to 297 acres that had been previously selected from the federal government. This land lies alongside the Revilla Highway and is divided into Tracts A, B, and C. Tracts A and C are close to Ward Cove surrounding the road and uphill from the Connell pipeline. Tract B, at 104 acres, includes land from the Connell pipeline down to Ward Creek and includes the Dog Park area and much of the Ward Creek Trail and the Ward Lake Access Road.

In early 2014 the Borough Assembly addressed the shortage of affordable housing for existing families and for possible future workers at hoped-for shipyard and mine processing jobs. The Borough called for proposals from parties interested in developing Borough lands for such housing.

A proposal was received from the Ward Cove Group and the Assembly agreed to consider it. However that proposal went far beyond fulfilling the moderately priced housing need, which could have been done on just a portion of Tract C. Proposed was purchase and full development of the entire 297 acres including other types of commercial facilities as well as high-end residential housing. Tract B was proposed to be subdivided and roaded for housing.

The Threat

Most of Tracts A and C are almost completely undeveloped. But Tract B has already been well developed as a local and visitor industry recreation facility. If the Borough agreed to sale of the entire 297 acres and the developer s proposed plan were allowed to advance, much of the existing Ward Creek Trail would be either bulldozed or severely degraded by roads, lot clearing and houses. Its unique attraction as a nature trail through undisturbed forestland overlooking a scenic bear fishing stream would be gone. About half of this $800,000 trail system would be affected as well as a thousand feet of the Salvage Trail that cost an additional $70,000. Signs have been posted that show where public use would be lost. Interested people can visit the Dog Park area and/or hike the trails to see for themselves. Or contact Eric Muench at 225-5372 or email for more detail.

Members of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly will have to make some complex decisions for these Borough lands and consider which if any areas to sell and for what purposes. But saving Ward Creek Trail is simple. To avoid losing $450,000 of public investment and this great public resource, the Assembly just needs to eliminate Tract B from consideration of sale. Members need to hear from the public about its desire to save Ward Creek Trail.

Eric Muench
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: "I am an over 50 year resident of the Ketchikan area and believe the local and federally built trails are a great benefit to our residents for health, recreation and the economy, and should not be sacrificed when other more suitable lands for housing are available."

Received February 04, 2015 - Published February 07, 2015


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