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City Creek trail to get boardwalk, additional improvements


City Creek trail will be getting a significant facelift over the building season of 2015, and perhaps on into the next few years, in an effort to make the increasingly popular coastal rainforest sojourn more accessible to residents and visitors of all ages and fitness ― at least on the first leg.

The project, funded by a $60,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service grant the borough accepted at its last assembly meeting, won't actually go very far in terms of miles. All told, the project will cover the first quarter mile of the trail, with the remaining three quarters left in its rugged state, Parks and Recreation Director Donn Hayes said.

The project isn't a solo venture by the borough either, as the Petersburg Indian Association will actually be undertaking the bulk of the field work as the two collaborate on their first joint trail, he added. “We've worked on an agreement with the Petersburg Indian Association that they will help us with maintenance and also creating new trails. PIA has been extremely helpful in the borough in many different areas ― their transportation grant has had a huge affect on our community.”

Susan Harai, transportation director for PIA, said she will soon begin the design phase for the extension, hopefully to have “something in to Donn Hayes by January,” anticipating three PIA employees pulling regular hours when the design is finished and materials are acquired.

For the tribe, the project will satisfy several goals ― the foremost being the employment and betterment of native peoples, as well as improving the community they live in, she added, noting that of the several hundred miles of roads and paths the tribe maintains, 158.8 miles, 30.5 percent of the total inventory, are walking or biking trails, and are not taken into consideration for additional funding on the tribe's transportation grant.

The majority of the project will focus on the first 330 feet of the trail, where PIA “will be doing rock work, taking all areas that are a five percent grade or higher and trying to level those out so it's just a little bit of a smooth trail,” he said. “We have a lot of visitors to the community that are now using that trail, and we want it to be a spot they want to come back to, year after year. The canopy, the beauty of hiking through the rainforest somewhere local and somewhere easily accessible from the ferry or coming off the airplane is something we really want to have.”

In order to keep those trails smooth and not carved out by frequent rains, additional culverts will be installed and the first bridge on the trail will be lifted for a flat crossing, rather than its current semi-ramp incline. An old, weathered chimney once framed by a homestead will continue to be improved as a picnic area before shooting off onto a proposed boardwalk that Hayes said will run for about an eighth of a mile, lifting the trail, for a time, off the canyon of moss-encrusted roots that twist through the forest floor.

“This will allow us to do two things,” Hayes said. “Number one, we'll have a trail that is built and level, it will be at least (three feet) wide, so it will be a good traveling platform that will go above these roots and we'll also build into it, in a couple of areas, some lookouts. We'll cut back the trees and have a couple of benches.”

While some would simply be scenic resting spaces, others would have historical markers, primarily to indicate the low tide locations of the petroglyphs and fish traps, he added, “also informational markers about the local history.”

As for the remaining ¾ mile, Hayes said he won't be seeking any grants to make it less rugged, though maintenance would continue.

“There's a large population that actually likes that trail for that purpose,” he said. “This just gives us a little flexibility in what that trail can be.”

Future works

Though other trails likely won't be worked upon in the coming year, Harai and Hayes have a long list of prospective improvements, extensions and altogether new trails to submit grants for.

“We're seeking a grant right now for the Hungry Point trail,” Hayes said, looking to add a loop to the trail, extending it by about three quarters of a mile. This would make it more accessible for local usage in all seasons, from winter snowshoeing or skiing to “giving us an extended area to hike, to do activities on ― we can also look at the possibility, in the future, of adding in Frisbee golf if we extend the trail.”

Hayes added that the more uses a public land can be put to, the better it looks on a grant submission to secure funding ― in this case, through the Department of Natural Resources.

“We won't know, probably until March or April of next year if we've received that grant,” he said.

On Harai's end are even more projects, as the tribe looks to add in bike paths along Sandy Beach, North Nordic and Haugen roads as part of the Safe Routes to School program, part of the tribe's long-range transportation plan that prioritizes development of trails and other projects providing safer walking and riding within a two mile radius of public schools.

Additionally, the tribe has begun maintaining, and soon, designing new cabins to join other USFS shelters that dot the wilderness throughout the island, looking to ensure ready shelter for hikers caught in seasonal squalls, she said.

The partnership on the trails and other projects would not be possible without the support of the PIA board, she added. “It's so exciting that they want to do all these projects”


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