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Trail may open on time despite avalanches

Basin Road beyond the trestle is closed due to slide danger

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2007

Despite early-season construction delays and late-season avalanche danger, Perseverance Trail may be able to open as planned in little more than a month.

This winter's heavy snowfall disrupted restoration work on the first 114 miles of the trail, and the persistent avalanche danger has delayed the finishing touches on the 1,500 linear feet of trail that were blasted last fall.

Depending on when the danger subsides, the popular recreation trail at the end of Basin Road should reopen in late May or early June.

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Due to the avalanche danger, Basin Road is also closed beyond the trestle.

"We're not going to try and close (the trail) in the middle of the summer during its most popular use," said James King, executive director of Trail Mix.

"The main reason it's closed right now is because of the danger," he said. "There is some loose rock on those blasted cliffs that could fall out on people. As soon as we can get it cleared up, we'll open up the trail and enjoy it all summer."

The series of cribs that hold the trail in place over the cliff above Gold Creek have been failing for years. A restoration project began last fall, funded in part by a $690,000 Alaska Trails Initiative Grant.

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"We knew going into it that winter was a time that you work when you can and you don't when you can't," King said. "So we knew there was a good possibility that we wouldn't get through the project."

Plans call for approximately 2,500 feet of trail to be blasted at 17 different sites along the first 114 miles of the trail. Ketchikan-based Channel Construction completed 1,500 feet before leaving in mid-January, when snowslides complicated the process.

The early snowfall pushed the first bedrock blast from mid-November to Dec. 15.

In late September, the trail will be reclosed and the contractor plans to finish blasting at sites along the final 1,000 feet.

When the snow melts and the avalanche danger subsides this spring, Channel will return to the trail and finish work on the 1,500 feet that's already blasted.

The contractor plans to scrape the loose rocks and debris off the cliffs, smooth out the tread and install some of the 24-inch culverts that need to be placed in that section.

It's unknown when the contractor will be able to return to the area.

"We're just going to wait and see," King said. "Last year we had avalanches clear into May when we got a late snow. Stuff was still coming down from up high. We don't want the contractor in there risking his life."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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