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Drive-up cabin a first for Ketchikan's Settler's Cove park

Posted: August 4, 2013 - 12:10am
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In this July 24, 2013 photo, Carpenters Jebidiah Knutsen, left, and Jeremy Abbott, construct the new drive-up cabin at Settler's Cove State Park in Ketchikan, Alaska. (AP Photo/Ketchikan Daily News, Hall Anderson)  Hall Anderson
Hall Anderson
In this July 24, 2013 photo, Carpenters Jebidiah Knutsen, left, and Jeremy Abbott, construct the new drive-up cabin at Settler's Cove State Park in Ketchikan, Alaska. (AP Photo/Ketchikan Daily News, Hall Anderson)

KETCHIKAN — Opportunities for people to take their outdoor experiences to a cabin are increasing. While U.S. Forest Service cabins are plentiful, they are mostly accessible by plane, boat or backpacking adventures. But Alaska State Parks is building a cabin for public use at Settlers Cove, right in Ketchikan’s backyard.

Construction started July 15 and only 10 days in, the cabin has a completed roof, windows and sleeping bunks. All that is left is trim, sanding, staining and the porch, said Mary Kowalczyk, the district park ranger.

“Of course, there will be a picnic bench and a fire ring installed, too,” she said.

The cabin sits on a former camp site, chosen because it already had a foundation area installed. The site was previously used for small camp trailers, so the existing concrete pad was both level and raised a bit from the ground.

A charter boat cruises past a new cabin going up at Settlers Cove State Park on Wednesday. The cabin will be completed at the end of August and will be the most accessible cabin in the area. Staff photo by Hall Anderson

“We hiked out a couple other spots, and it would have cost a fortune to bring in rocks and make it level,” Kowalczyk said. “I had some misgivings about putting (the cabin) on a campsite, but it’s really a pretty spot.”

The view from the cabin overlooks the water, with views of Betton and Back islands. Within a few steps of the soon-to-be porch is the beach, accessible for wandering and the dipping of toes.

The cabin will be available for reservations year round. When complete, it will have a small wood-burning stove, sleeping bunks for a maximum of eight and enough space inside to all eight sleepers to escape precipitation during the day.

Pricing for the cabin has not been officially determined, but Kowalczyk said people can expect to pay rates similar to the Grindall Island cabin: $35 per night during peak summer and weekends.

The campground at Settlers Cove is surrounded by cedar, hemlock and spruce trees and berry picking is abundant. Lunch Creek Falls trail offers a one-mile loop to explore the forest, with break-out paths to the beach and a connection to the longer Lunch Creek trail. The Hollow Cedar Beach access trail heads at the day-use parking lot and winds a flat trail, accessible to people with disabilities, through the trees to the water.

Kowalczyk said the Settlers Cove cabin is the first drive-up cabin in the Ketchikan area, though the Southeast district has three cabins in Juneau. Mike Eberhardt, Southeast park superintendent, said the three cabins are booked months in advance.

“I would be shocked if (Ketchikan’s) didn’t fill up rapidly,” he said.

He said the cabins are so popular because they open a new demographic to the idea of camping. It can be difficult, and disheartening, to wrangle kids, pets and gear into the car only to be rained out.

“It can be hosing rain, and you can drive out there and know that you have a dry, warm place to hang out,” Eberhardt said. “You don’t have to go home with a bunch of soaking wet gear.”

“Even people like myself, who have been camping for eons, love those drive up cabins,” he said.

Kowalczyk said she would like to see more cabins built, though finding funding can be “difficult.” Funding for this cabin came as a special government appropriation in the amount of $50,000 in July 2012.

“It’s gonna be hard right now, because we’re cutting back on all kinds of state funding,” Kowalczyk said. “People don’t look at recreation as a high priority, even though it’s a healthy thing. If people show us it’s what they want, we’ll build them.”

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