Ditch trail, snowslide center garner grants

Posted: Monday, March 05, 2001

Recent grants mean the Treadwell Ditch Trail will be improved, the Ernest Gruening State Historical Park will gain interpretive signs and the Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center will be better equipped for classes and emergencies.

A statewide system known as Trails and Recreational Access for Alaska, or TRAAK, recently announced 33 grants, several to Juneau organizations.

Trail Mix received $30,000 to improve the existing trail along the Treadwell Ditch for year-round use from Dan Moeller Trail above West Juneau to Lawson Creek, above Crow Hill.

"It is one of our goals to press forward" on Treadwell Ditch improvements, said James King of Trail Mix. The ditch is a shallow, 14-mile-long trench dug early in the century from what's now Eaglecrest to downtown Douglas. It was used to supply water to power gold mine operations.

"It's been a rustic trail with many washouts and rickety bridges or lacking bridges," said King, who has hiked in Juneau for years. "These improvements should open it up to a lot more hikers."

In 1993 the U.S. Forest Service, State Parks and Juneau Parks and Recreation finished an areawide trails plan with a top priority of turning the ditch into a 6-foot-wide, multi-use gravel track for snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, hikers and mountain bikers.

Fixing the entire ditch would be a $1 million-plus project, which King said is rather overwhelming. But attacking it in sections makes it easier to see the vision at the end of the tunnel: "The longest relatively level trail in Juneau."

The $30,000 grant will help to fix a section of just under 2 miles from the Moeller trail to Lawson Creek.

"Once we have that grade finished, we will smooth out the top of the berm, put culverts in the washouts, and put in a new bridge at Lawson Creek," King said.

The project will be a combined effort of paid contractors, volunteers and interested organizations, he said.

Friends of Ernest Gruening State Historical Park received a $14,000 grant for interpretive signs, a brochure and trail improvements. The park is adjacent to Amalga Harbor and contains a log cabin where U.S. Sen. Gruening entertained dignitaries and a private beach where he bathed.

"We will be flattening and broadening the half-mile of trail. The grant will really help to make the park more usable and more welcoming," said Alice Rarig, a member of the Friends' committee.

Rarig said the signs will be installed in time for the beginning of the 2002 tourist season.

Gruening spent the most time at the cabin when he was writing the manifest for statehood, and he and his family used it as a summer home for many years, Rarig said. The total site is 13.5 acres. Long-term plans, which will require additional funds, include a handicapped-accessible loop trail that would afford a water view as well as a view of Mt. Ernest Gruening.

The Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center received a grant of $7,088 to purchase a snowmobile, trailer and toboggan sled for rescue, outreach and field research.

"There is no way we could have raised this money otherwise, so we are very excited. We need to be able to be out there if we are to be effective," said Bill Glude, the center's founder.

The new snowmachine will allow Glude to ride in the areas snowmachiners use "so we are familiar with the tactics they use and the areas."

"We used to borrow a snowmachine, and it seemed to be the one that always got stuck. If you're going to teach at the top of the hill, you don't want to be stuck at the bottom," Glude said.

The snowmachine also will give him quick access during storms to survey snowpack conditions, and will make search-and-rescue efforts easier, he said.

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