The U.S. Forest Service in Wrangell is anticipating big construction seasons in the coming years, thanks to an influx of federal funding to the region.
There are almost two-dozen recreational cabins sprinkled across Wrangell Island and its surrounding area. They’re managed by the local branch of the Forest Service.
“Where the cabins are distributed across both forests on the region is part of a much larger planning effort that is not necessarily in the district’s control,” says Wrangell District Ranger Clint Kolarich. Kolarich says he’s hoping his team can help pave the way for a few more cabins in the coming years, thanks to an influx of federal money to be spent on cabins.
“I think everyone’s pretty aware that we at the district level with the Wrangell Ranger District in conjunction with the Petersburg Ranger District, I kind of saw the handwriting on the wall and we started a cabins environmental assessment,” Kolarich says. That environmental assessment (EA) is just for clearing potential locations for future cabins, if funding becomes available. Kolarich says the process, which happens under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), is almost done.
“I just want to get it done,” Kolarich says with a laugh. “We want to be able to say that we’re ready. So when the funding comes – I love seeing this district, along with Petersburg, be positioned to react quickly when that stuff happens. Even though I love all my other rangers, not every district is as prepared. And I think we’ve done a really good job so that we can position ourselves to be ready as soon as stuff is ready for us.”
Kolarich says because of that preparation, the Wrangell Ranger District anticipates it could secure funding for two cabins in the next two years.
One would replace a cabin at Anan Bay, a popular bear and wildlife viewing site just south of Wrangell Island. It was crushed by a tree over the winter.
But the other site would be a new cabin, on Wrangell’s road system.
“Right now, we call it ‘Little Lakes,’” says Tory Houser, a recreation planner with the Forest Service in Wrangell. “We hope to give it a Lingit name [as well].”
The site is near an existing site, about 20 miles south of town on the island’s logging road system “up above the actual Long Lake where the trailhead is,” Houser explains. “There’s another little set of lakes, and it’s at the north end of those little lakes.”
Kolarich adds: “When you make the turn to go to Long Lake, it’s not very far up the road. It’s right where the water begins. And then there’ll be a short trail that takes you in, and a small parking lot and a short trail that will take you about 300 feet from the road. And that’s just far enough to get over a little little rise. The cabin won’t really be visible at all from the road. And it’ll be right on the water. It’s an amazing little site.”
He continues that the site wasn’t on the radar of the Forest Service before a public comment period last year.
“That location came from our public comment period, it wasn’t something we sat down and drew up in the office,” Kolarich says. “So I’m excited about that. It’s a really neat spot. And it’s super easy, accessible.”
Houser and district ranger Kolarich say they hope that the cabin could be constructed the summer after next (in 2025). It’ll depend on how funding is distributed at the regional level, which is why the team is doing everything it can to have projects basically shovel-ready.
Beyond cabins, Houser says the Forest Service is working toward building the second phase of a new viewing deck at Anan – a lower deck that will allow closer access to watch and photograph bears at Anan Creek as they fish for salmon. The first phase of the deck wrapped up in 2022.
“Fingers crossed that we will have a new lower deck and access by June 15 of next year,” Houser says. And, adds with a laugh: “And a new cabin!”
If so, it might make Anan Wildlife Observatory the newest site on the Tongass, with a near-new upper viewing deck, new lower viewing deck, and newly rebuilt recreational cabin.
Along with trail projects and repairs to a highly-used dock on Zarembo Island slated for next spring, coming construction seasons could be quite busy.
Get in touch with KSTK at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 874-2345.