Two of Juneau’s favorite trails were significantly improved in the 2017 summer by Alaska State Parks crews, with a grant from the Recreational Trails Program.
• Bridget Point/Cowee Meadows: Continuing on work started the previous summer, the crew turned a trail full of mudholes and roots into a gravel walkway, replaced some planks, and improved drainage along the way. The bridge over the slough on the approach to the cabin was replaced two years ago, so by now the messiest and least safe portions of the trail are a thing of the past. There is hope that, if funding permits, more of the planked part of the trail may be replaced with a graveled walkway, which lasts longer and is safer than boards that get so slippery when wet.
• Granite Basin: Over a mile and a half of trail, mostly on the long traverse between the switchbacks and the final pitch to the entrance of the basin, was made more safely passable. Loads of gravel filled swampy swales and rotten planks were replaced; drainage was improved and some of the rocky places were smoothed and widened. Hikers can see stacked planks and big bags of gravel at trailside, indications that additional work is planned for next summer.
At Eagle Beach State Park, the snowy winter trails are groomed and brushed by volunteers. After a tree fell and ruined the bridge behind the Methodist camp, State Parks rebuilt the bridge, ready for winter sports.
Eaglecrest trail crews (CBJ) have built a new gravel trail on Pittman Ridge that connects the upper Black Bear chair lift to the Ptarmigan lift at the Eagle’s Nest warming shed. Small footbridges cross little drainages on this route; one more will be added, along with additional trail enhancements, completing the project begun two summers ago. The trail crew plans to build another gravel loop to a small lake on the southeastern side of the Black Bear lift.
On the Auke Nu trail, the Forest Service has created a graveled bypass around the worst of the root-y mudholes.
In the Dredge Lakes areas, there is updated information on the work of the Beaver Patrol, a nonprofit, volunteer organization that coordinates its work with the U.S. Forest Service. In the past two summers, with partial funding from the Forest Service, the Beaver Patrol has purchased, delivered and spread (with the help of several Coast Guard volunteers) more than 50 tons of gravel on trails near Dredge Lake, Crystal Lake, Moose Lake, and the Holding Pond, raising the trail bed so that trail flooding is markedly reduced.
Every year, the Beaver Patrol notches some beaver dams to reduce trail flooding in this area, maintain fish passage, and preserve the habitats that beaver ponds provide for birds and juvenile fish. Sometimes small dams are created, to make pools that act like a fish ladder, easing fish passage into culverts that are perched too high. Small dams are also built to shunt high waters away from trails and into the main channels. Unfortunately, these small dams, and the official signs meant to protect them, are often destroyed by vandals.
A number of other trails in the Juneau area have not been covered by these summaries. Some of them have not received recent improvements, while others may have simply fallen through the cracks.
• Mary F. Willson is a retired professor of ecology. “On The Trails”appears every Friday. Her essays can be found online at onthetrailsjuneau.wordpress.com.