Bridge to new views on Auke Lake

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2008

Crews head out Monday to start building a long-awaited trail along Auke Lake.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

At $1.3 million for 1.1 miles, it will be the most expensive trail Juneau has ever built, according to trail planner George Schaaf.

It's worth the price, if you ask Ken Dean, who has been using a wheelchair since a 1986 accident.

"It means a lot to me," Dean said. "If you don't have a good trail, life becomes rather dim for people in wheelchairs."

Even with his trusty off-roader of a wheelchair, Dean is limited to a few of Juneau's many miles of trails, such as parts of the Brotherhood Bridge trail. The Auke Lake hiking trail will be accessible to everyone.

The Auke Lake trail may be done by the end of the year, according to Schaaf, executive director of Trail Mix Inc. The Juneau-based nonprofit is organizing the project and providing labor, in partnership with the city of Juneau and the University of Alaska Southeast.

A mix of public and private donors paid for the trail. These included the Rasmuson Foundation, the state-administered Alaska Trails Initiative, the city of Juneau, and former Gov. Bill Sheffield, according to Laraine Derr, chairwoman of the UAS development council, which led fundraising efforts.

"It's a real community effort," she said.

The hard-labor part of that effort began a week ago, as Rotary Club and UAS volunteers cleared away chemically nasty pressure-treated wood from the wetlands and brushed clean a 2,000-foot corridor.

Trail planners were originally shooting to start laying gravel last year, but snags in the permit process held things up.

The Auke Lake trail will more or less run along a rough-whacked old trail from Glacier Highway to Goat Hill Road.

Some of the route runs through wetlands. In avoidance of bog, several large trees with complicated root systems, and steep slopes, part of the trail will run across a 300-foot floating platform that skirts the edge of the lake. A 70-foot boardwalk will loop around another sensitive area. Small footbridges will be installed over salmon creeks instead of culverts.

Permits are still in progress for a bridge that will cross Auke Creek. It will be built in the Lower 48 and shipped up, Schaaf said.

In the long term, the trail may be extended to connect with University of Alaska Southeast housing.

Of course, the trail will afford fabulous views - Juneau weather permitting. But UAS is interested, too, in the trail's educational value. For instance, humans have mucked about in the area for a long time, and they leave stuff that budding archaeologists can dig up and learn from. Two summers ago, UAS students found chicken wire and other remnants of an early 20th century fox farm in the area.

• Contact reporterKate Golden at 523-2276 or kate.golden@juneauempire.com.



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