Hike service

The Forest Service has millions of dollars for new cabins for public use in Chugach and Tongass. He wants your advice on where to build them.

New and improved public-use cabins are heading to Alaska, and officials want to know where the public thinks they should go.

U.S. Forest Service officials announced Friday that about $14.4 million of the $1 trillion infrastructure law passed last year would go toward improving existing cabins in the Tongass and Chugach National Forests. in Alaska and building new ones.

“We’re very excited about this – this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said James King, regional director of recreation, lands and minerals for the Alaska Region Forest Service.

King said the state’s forest districts are proposing about 50 new cabins, and in October they will seek public input on specific cabin locations and types.

He said they couldn’t build all 50 – it’s expensive to send materials by helicopter to remote places. But they hope to build about half that number, while using funds to upgrade existing cabins.

They will soon have a map that details where the cabins might be located. Jeff Schramm, the Chugach’s forestry supervisor, said officials plan to approach the public with about 10 to 12 potential cabin sites in the Chugach. But since there is not a lot of funding, and they don’t know yet how many cabins they will be able to build there.

“It’s hard to know what all the costs are associated with it right now until you figure out those locations,” Schramm said. “And then the number can go up or down depending on how many cabins you’re able to build.”

King said the Forest Service wants to know how people use cabins so they can build the right kind. He said they’re hoping to get usage insights, like how many people are likely to stay in a cabin at a time and whether users like certain features like lofts or large porches.

“It’s about creating unique opportunities for people to enjoy public lands,” King said. “So, is this unique opportunity by a lake, by a river, by a magnificent view? Or is it a place where people like to hunt, fish or pick berries? »

The Forest Service is particularly focused on placing cabins where there is demand, King said. This means that the cabins could end up being located a short hike down a trail that is on the road network, or even in an existing campground.

[How to book the Alaska public-use cabin of your dreams]

King said that’s because the Forest Service has seen a recent shift in cabin use to locations that are closer to communities and less expensive to reach, compared to remote locations that require access by plane or boat. .

Some of the newly offered cabins could be located in the Glacier, Cordova and Seward ranger districts of the Chugach National Forest, which spans some 5.4 million acres in south-central Alaska. The forest is visited by around half a million people each year.

Schramm said when building the new cabins, they focused on ease of access “because not everyone has a boat or a plane.”

This is especially important in the Chugach, as many Alaskans live within an hour of the forest, and cabins are booked well in advance. As new cabins are built, Schramm said, new, easily accessible cabins may also fill up.

In addition to the new cabins, the Forest Service will also use a portion of the funding to spruce up existing cabins that may have fresh roofs, logs, furniture, flooring and bathrooms.

The Infrastructure Law stipulates that projects must be carried out within the next five years. King said they hope to start repairs and some new cabins in 2023.

“And then it’s going to ramp up from there,” King said.

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