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Oliver Inlet Tram takes center stage

Trail Mix Inc. aims to raise funds for state parks trail at annual gala

Posted: November 9, 2012 - 1:00am
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Courtesy of Erik Boraas / Trail Mix Inc.
The Oliver Inlet Tram and trail, a 3/4-mile long boardwalk and tramway located 14 miles southwest of Juneau in Oliver Inlet State Marine Park on Admiralty Island, is definitely due for it’s spot in the limelight. Trail Mix Executive Director Erik Boraas said that after years of applying “Band-Aids” to the aging boardwalk and the sagging rails, it’s absolutely time for a careful rebuild.

One little trail will be honored in a big way Saturday night as the local nonprofit Trail Mix Inc. kicks off its annual fundraiser and auction at 6 p.m. at Centennial Hall in an effort to raise funds for the renovation of a historically significant and unique trail.

The Oliver Inlet Tram and trail, a 3/4-mile long boardwalk and tramway located 14 miles southwest of Juneau in Oliver Inlet State Marine Park on Admiralty Island, is definitely due for it’s spot in the limelight. Trail Mix Executive Director Erik Boraas said that after years of applying “Band-Aids” to the aging boardwalk and the sagging rails, it’s absolutely time for a careful rebuild.

You see, the Alaska State Parks trail holds historical significance; it was originally constructed in the 1950s by the Juneau Territorial Sportsmen and the rails upon which the carts roll were bought from the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mining Company. Some came from the Ebner tunnel and others from Thane.

Over the years the tram and trail have provided an important portage route for outdoor enthusiasts of all types wishing to take advantage of the shortcut from Oliver Inlet to Seymour Canal. Push carts, still used today, move boats and equipment between the two bodies of water and the trail provides access to a public use cabin situated in the heart of a wildlife bonanza.

“It’s just kind of a neat little tram in the woods,” Boraas said.

Visitors of the area describe it as a unique and breathtaking area with ample opportunities to “escape it all” and view eagles and brown bears, to name just a couple of area’s residents.

But it’s not easy being a trail in Southeast Alaska. Despite a virtual rebuild in the 80s, repairs done in 1998 by the Division of State Parks and SAGA, as well as emergency repairs done by Trail Mix in 2010 and 2012 the trail is in essentially rotting away, Boraas said. The trail traverses a relatively gentle grade over mostly muskeg and was built with treated lumber that has begun to degrade in Southeast’s rainforest climate.

Last spring, Boraas said, Juneau’s legislators secured nearly $100,000 to rehabilitate the tram. Trail Mix was awarded the contract and the organization plans to begin work in June of 2013.

The project, Boraas said, will be to replace all the rotted planks with yellow cedar from Icy Straits Lumber in Hoonah. According to the Project Snapshot report from the 2012 Legislature, two trestles that span creeks will be reconstructed and stabilized. In addition, the remaining rail ties will be replaced and the railing realigned. The approach area in Oliver Inlet will also be rehabilitated, the report stated.

“We plan to just lift the rails, which are in pretty good condition, out of the way and replace the wood underneath,” Boraas said. “Then, stake them back down.”

State Parks is planning to replace the carts as part of the project, as well, Boraas said.

Overall, Boraas said they anticipate the work to take three to four weeks. During that time the trail will be out of commission, so to speak, and the public use cabin closed.

As for Saturday’s event, Boraas said tickets are still available for the fundraiser, which is the biggest event of the year for Trail Mix. The event will feature live music, a catered buffet by Abby’s Kitchen, no-host bar, as well as a live and silent auction. Tickets can be purchased at Hearthside Books, the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, online at juneautrails.org or at the door. Cost is $35 for Trail Mix members, and $45 for non-members. Trail Mix is an organization which, according to their mission statement, strives to “be the steward of a safe and enjoyable trails system by bringing people and resources together for trail improvements and activities.”

• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

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