SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Details of Recovery Act Trails and Facilities Projects on Tongass and Chugach National Forests Announced


July 23, 2009

Alaska Regional Forester Denny Bschor today announced the details of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects for Alaska trails and facilities worth over $17 million. Secretary Tom Vilsack announced July 21, 2009, that 191 trail and facility projects had been funded at more than $274 million on national forest sytem lands in 32 states.

"The Recovery Act projects are central to creating jobs and building a better, stronger economy in the future," said Secretary Vilsack. "These projects exemplify President Obama's commitment to sustainability, reducing our environmental footprint, and increasing energy efficiency, which will benefit the 178 million people who visit the national forests each year, while generating additional tourism and stimulating local economies."

According to Bschor, nearly $5 million of the economic recovery funds are going to the Region's three major visitor's centers in Ketchikan, Juneau, Portage to perform needed maintenance, upgrade parking and trails around the centers, and upgrade and improve interpretive displays and educational audio visual productions. The portion of the Iditarod National Historic Trail running through the Chugach National Forest received $3.25 million to improve 26 miles of trail and install five snow machine bridges and replace the pedestrian bridge over Winner Gorge near Girdwood.

In addition, over a $1 million will be spent to improve 12 miles of trails in the Admiralty and Misty Fiords monuments. Those improvements will include replacing footbridges and resurfacing trails. Over $800,000 will be used to imrove Spencer and Grandview stops on the Forest Service/Alaska Railroad Whistle Stop route south of Girdwood. Other trail work will be completed in Cordova, Petersburg, Sitka and Wrangell.

Forest Service trails systems provides access to a wide diversity of users including hikers, , mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts. Trail maintenance includes protecting soils and reducing erosion, along with clearing vegetation, controlling invasive species, and removing downed trees. Repairs and upgrades to trail head and parking areas will improve access and safety for trail users. All of this is labor-intensive work requires skilled workers to be hired under ARRA.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also directs the Forest Service to improve, maintain and renovate public and administrative facilities. There is a large backlog of maintenance needs for public facilities. Workers hired under the Recovery Act will maintain facilities so that they contribute to safe, high quality outdoor experiences for citizens. Once work is completed these buildings will be more energy efficient, use less water, have a smaller environmental footprint and save taxpayer money.

Detailed Info on Alaska Trails and Facilties Projects:

Admiralty and Misty Fiords National Monument Trail Health and Safety Improvements

Estimated Funding: $ 1,048,000
Partners: SAGA

This project will improve about 12 miles on six separate trails in the Misty Fiords and Admiralty national monuments. These wilderness areas on the Tongass National Forest are considered world-class visitor destinations. In addition, the Georg Island trail project on the Hoonah Ranger District will provide access to an historic World War II site. This project will employ Southeast Alaska Guidance Association youth crews. This will create development of job skills, associated with construction and maintenance projects. These communities have minimal opportunities for youth employment or job training. Continued maintenance needs will result in future seasonal job opportunities. These trail improvements will eliminate health and safety hazards. Youth crews will replace deteriorated and failed footbridges and resurface trails. This will improve public access for subsistence and recreation users in these remote locations. Results will include improved watershed conditions, creating healthy habitat for salmon and other wildlife.

Petersburg Mountain Trail Group Maintenance for Safety and Accessibility

Estimated Funding: $ 1,640,000

Residents in the Southeast Alaska communities of Petersburg, Craig and Sitka depend upon safe trails and healthy flora and fauna to draw visitor dollars each year. In addition, deteriorating trails harm wetlands and watersheds. Several very popular trails near these communities have serious public safety issues as the result of deferred maintenance. Public safety in remote locations is critical. An injury in the wilds of Alaska, far from medical help, could have life or death consequences. For this project, workers will completely reconstruct Petersburg Mountain Trail and install anti-slip tread on Three Lakes trail near Petersburg. Over a mile of One Duck Trail on Prince of Wales Island will be reconstructed and replace a failing bridge on Beaver Lake Trail near Sitka. These improvements will allow greater accessibility and safety for the public and will eliminate wetland and watershed impacts. This project will safeguard recreation guide jobs businesses in communities with high unemployment rates.

Wrangell Boardwalk Trails Deferred Maintenance for Safety and Protection - Funds will allow for maintenance on five trails near Ketchikan

Estimated Funding: $ 1,264,000

Ketchikan and Wrangell are important gateways to Southeast Alaska. Ketchikan is often the first stop for cruise ship passengers in summer. Wrangell is the portal to the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness and Anan Creek Wildlife Viewing Observatory. This is an unique bear viewing site with seven heavily used trails that extend over nine miles where visitors can see both black and brown bears in their natural habitat. The work will fix public safety issues that were a result of deferred maintenance. It will include installing new planks, new crushed rock surface, installing new anti-slip tread material on planks and replacing four failing trail bridges at Anan Creek. Additionally, these funds will allow for maintenance on five trails near Ketchikan.

Tongass OHV Bridge Replacement and Trail Maintenance for Visitor Safety and Protection

Estimated Funding: $ 1,500,000

Residents in the small communities of Yakutat and Sitka depend on all terrain vehicles and off highway vehicle (ATV/OHV) trails. Residents use these trails for subsistence (living from the land and streams) and recreation access. Subsistence is critical for the survival of residents in rural villages in Alaska. Trail use has grown greatly in recent years and maintenance funding has dropped. It has created critical health and safety issues. It has also resulted in serious watershed and fisheries harm. The communities are highly dependent upon recreation income associated with guided fishing on salmon streams. Improving these trails will also provide job opportunities for local supply and recreation businesses. This project will restore historic ATV/OHV trails used by these communities. The project will reconstruct four miles of OHV trail next to the Dangerous River near Yakutat. On the Mud Bay trail system, workers will grade, brush, establish drainage and replace eight failing OHV bridges on Kruzof Island west of Sitka.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and Russian River Angler Trail Accessibility

Estimated Funding: $ 3,375,000 for Capital Improvement and Maintenance
Partners: Alaska Recreation Management, Inc (RRAT) Russian River Interagency Coordination Group (RRAT)

For some people, experiencing the Alaska outdoors is out of reach because of mobility or accessibility needs. This project will provide accessible routes to historic overlook sites and world class fishing for people of all ages and abilities. The first trail is in Juneau within the Tongass National Forest. This is home of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, the most visited tourist site in Alaska. It will improve the short Trail of Time near the visitor center and trails in the recreation area. The second trail will provide access to the Russian River Angler Trail, the most used trail on the Chugach National Forest. It provides access for over 75,000 visitors annually for excellent sockeye salmon and rainbow trout fishing. The only access to this famous riverside trail is on four stairways descending 60 vertical feet from bluff-top parking areas making it difficult for people with a mobility or accessibility need to access the trail. The trail will provide a route for people of all ages and abilities to this famous destination.

Alaganik Slough Boardwalk Repair for Health, Safety and Accessibility

Estimated Funding: $ 900,000

The Alaganik Day Use Area in the heart of the Copper River Delta near Cordova is one of the most popular sites on the Delta. It is one of the few places in this 700,000-acre wetland with vehicle access. The Alaganik Area provides wildlife viewing and beautiful scenery, hunting, fishing, and boating. The accessible boardwalk was built in 1993-1995 with the help of international volunteers. The Alaska governor noted the project's excellent barrier-free design for the boardwalk, viewing blind and elevated observation platform. The boardwalk no longer meets ADA and ABA accessibility standards because of frost heave and it is unsafe during wet or icy conditions. This project will replace foundation supports and re-level the 850-foot elevated boardwalk and will remove safety issues and repair it. The boardwalk will once more be a key site for recreation use and for Cordova's international Shorebird Festival as it will then meet agency safety and accessibility standards. The boardwalk will once more be a key site for recreation use and for Cordova's international Shorebird Festival.

Whistle Stop Partnership Projects

Estimated Funding: $ 850,000
Partners: Alaska Railroad Corporation

The Whistle Stop Project is a partnership between the Forest Service and the Alaska Railroad Corporation. The project provides access to the remote backcountry of the Kenai Peninsula, with a world-class system of trails, overnight camping, and rental cabins. A self-propelled railcar, trails, and facilities are already in place. The project will upgrade access and utilization of the existing components through improvements to cabins, restrooms, rail platforms, and wildlife viewing structures. The improvements will enhance visitor safety from bears and the elements in this rugged region, provide access for people with disabilities, and bring substantial benefits to local economies through long-term employment opportunities.

Begich Boggs Visitor Center Parking Lot

Estimated Funding: $ 300,000
Partners: Portage Glacier Lodge (SU Permittee)

The Begich, Boggs Visitor Center is one of the most visited recreation facilities in Alaska. It is located within a 2-hour drive of more than half of the state's population, and is a major stop for cruise ship passengers on land tours. The center is a prime attraction for locals and tourists alike. Visitor safety is the highest priority. Because of increasing visitation and changing use patterns, the parking lot and circulation pathways no longer work well. Large numbers of tour buses and recreational vehicles visit the center making current parking inadequate. This creates congestion, confusion and the potential for accidents. In addition, surface drainage problems create safety hazards for people maneuvering around vehicles. A site plan has been completed. This project will provide a complete redesign of the parking areas and paths, including connections to an adjacent lodge. This will provide for safe, efficient traffic flow and parking. It will improve drainage, and provide safe pedestrian circulation, while maintaining the unique character of Portage Valley.

Alaska Public Visitor Centers Maintenance for Safety and Protection

Estimated Funding: $ 3,100,000
Partners: Alaska Geographic (BBVC Movie)

The three big visitor centers of Alaska's national forests are major tourist attractions. Millions of American and international tourists flock to these places each year. These centers are a boost to local economies. They represent the largest opportunity in the state for Forest Service staff to interact with and educate the public. Structural and mechanical problems caused by deferred maintenance are growing at these facilities. Without quick action, these deficiencies can have critical public health and safety impacts. This project will fix these problems making them safe and "greener" through energy efficiency advancements. Upgrades to audio-visual equipment, interpretive displays and new interpretive movies will allow users of all abilities to enjoy the unique natural and cultural wonders of the Alaska landscape.

Alaska- Trails

Iditarod National Historic Trail Improvement for Improved Visitor Safety

Estimated Funding: $ 2,630,000
Partners: Iditarod Trail Alliance (NGO) Seward Trailblazers, Bureau of Land Management (INHT Trail Administrator)

The Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT), south of Anchorage commemorates America's last great gold rush. It connects us to a time when sled dogs and mushers hauled tons of mail and supplies over 2,600 miles of frozen trail and tundra. The Chugach National Forest staff is restoring and developing over 180 miles of year-round recreation trail along the Southern Trek of the Iditarod between Seward and Girdwood. Many partners support this high profile effort. It will be a great contribution to statewide Centennial celebrations. This project will improve 26 miles of the trail. It will install or replace seven interpretive information kiosks at trailheads. It will complete two priority segments from Johnson Pass through Turnagain Pass and from Primrose north to Vagt Lake. These trail segments will provide outstanding year-round opportunities to enjoy the Iditarod National Historic Trail within a one or two hour drive of Anchorage.

Iditarod National Historic Trail 6 Bridges for Safety and Protection

Estimated Funding: $ 625,000
Partners: Iditarod Trail Alliance (NGO) Seward Trailblazers, Bureau of Land Management (INHT Trail Administrator)

The Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT), south of Anchorage, commemorates America's last great gold rush. It connects people to a time when sled dogs and mushers hauled tons of mail and supplies over 2,600 miles of frozen trail and tundra. The Chugach National Forest staff is restoring and developing over 180 miles of year-round recreation trail along the Southern Trek of Iditarod between Seward and Girdwood. Many partners support this high profile effort. It will be a great contribution to statewide Centennial celebrations. This project will construct five snow machine bridges. This will increase safety and provide a travel route generally outside of avalanche zones. This project will also replace a pedestrian bridge over Winner Creek Gorge near Girdwood, fixing current safety and deferred maintenance issues. These six bridges will greatly improve the access opportunities for outdoor recreation. Local small communities will see an improvement to their economies from these connections to the trail. It will increase opportunities for businesses to provide services to more trail users.


On the Web:

Forest Service ARRA projects and related economic recovery information recovery

Source of News:

US Forest Service


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Ketchikan, Alaska