On July 15th and 16th the Secure Rural Schools Resource Advisory Council met in Wrangell to review a number of outdoor recreation projects that have been proposed to the council. Petersburg District Ranger Chris Savage and Wrangell District Ranger Bob Dalrymple facilitated the meeting and Savage says it was a chance for the council to go through over 100 proposals ready for review.

“I think the way the Tongass is looking at their recreational trails and facilities, there amenities that both the general public and communities enjoy as well as visitors to the communities. The idea is why not take advantage of that by enhancing the facilities,” he says.

The group voted and prioritized a number of the projects. In Wrangell seven projects were voted on to be recommend for funding and three set aside as high priority projects. Some of the proposed projects included the enhancement of ATV trails on Zarembo Island, cabin refurbishing projects on the Stikine River, funding for the Stikine River Bird Festival, and the incorporation of new technology at the Anan Bear Observatory to expand education and promote Anan in Wrangell.

“The whole watchable wildlife thing has really taken off. It’s a niche that is really unique to southeast Alaska and the Tongass that we provide services to and it’s proven very successful in other places with putting cameras in stream channels and watching salmon migrate, or beavers, it’s been amazingly popular. So for a facility that’s already popular with visitors, why not provide another opportunity for people to experience it who might not have the necessity to visit the site,” he says.

RAC recommended that $20,000 be set aside to develop the “bear cam” at the Observatory and a public viewing station at the Nolan Center. From a business perspective, some believe the cam could create optimal viewing opportunities.

“I could see people becoming a little addicted to it, especially in the summer time when things get really busy, I could see that.” That’s Terri Henson; she’s works as the Civic Center Director at the Nolan Center. She believes it would be a big draw for tourists, but thinks it will also be a big hit with locals.

“I think a video camera for tourists and locals both would be interesting and educational. I think it’s a great way for those people who can’t go out and see Anan to at least get a glimpse of it and for those who love Anan to come in and keep track of their bears,” She says.

$2.5 million has been set aside for RAC projects in the three communities over the next 4-years. Wrangell and Petersburg both receive 45 % of the funding and Kake with the remaining 10% of the funds. Some projects in Petersburg include covered picnic shelters at Blind River Rapid, improvements on Crane Lake trail, and cabin path enhancements. Both Wrangell and Petersburg are proposing new information signs as well.

The deadline for proposed RAC projects is September 30th. At that point Forest Supervisor Forest Cole will review the projects, and once the proposed projects are reviewed and approved, the forest service has a year to implement work.
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