Juneau trails get facelift for summer

Work includes a new bridge across the Mendenhall River

Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2000

Juneau hikers this summer will enjoy trails with newly graveled beds and cleared of brush, and they won't have to tiptoe across a plank over Granite Creek.

Visitors to Mount Roberts will have more help understanding the alpine environment and more guidance in keeping off it, under improvements planned for this summer.

And by summer's end, there should be a bridge across the Mendenhall River from Dimond Park to the greenbelt trail known as Kaxdigoowu Heen. The 420-foot state-built bridge will be the second largest in Juneau, and will let hikers and cyclists avoid Egan Drive.

A much smaller bridge across Granite Creek on the Perseverance Trail will replace the one washed out two years ago.

``There's a huge amount of trail improvements going on this summer,'' said James King, executive director of Trail Mix, the nonprofit group that coordinates local trail planning and maintenance.

SAGA's Serve Alaska Youth Corps expects to keep 60 to 70 people ages 14 to 25 busy with trail work, said Program Coordinator Marc Ramonda. The Southeast Alaska Guidance Association program, which pays minimum wage, provides job-training, life skills and education through hands-on projects.

It's ``very hard physical work, major labor-intensive work,'' he said. ``But it's pretty gratifying work.''

There's still a lot of work for volunteers. The first opportunity starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Sandy Beach parking lot. The nearby Treadwell Mine Historic Trail is Juneau's National Trails Day 2000 project.

``Our big push for this year is to open that area up again, so people can see the history, the (mining) ruins,'' said Kim Kiefer, the city's parks and recreation director.

The work of raising the trail bed, laying in gravel and putting in culverts has already started, but it will include three Saturdays with volunteers.

Volunteers should call Trail Mix ahead of time at 790-6406, but no one will be turned away at the trailhead. Bring gloves, food and water.

Other volunteer projects include:

The Lemon Creek Trail (June 24, meet at the Costco parking lot).

The Bear Creek Trail (July 15 and 29, meet at Perseverance Trailhead).

Mount Roberts (Aug. 12, meet at the base of the tram).

Yankee Basin and Amalga trails (Aug. 26, meet at Amalga Trailhead).

And Windfall Lake Trail (Sept. 16, meet at trailhead).

This summer will see more work on Mount Roberts aimed at keeping people on the trail and off the fragile alpine environment. It includes placing more rocks along the sides of the trail, building two more observation platforms, and adding informative signs about natural and human history.

The observation platforms -- one looking over Bear Valley, the other over Gastineau Channel -- give visitors a destination, so they don't feel they have to walk on for that ultimate view, King said.

``The tram gets lots and lots of people, and everyone's looking for the perfect picture,'' said Debra Gerrish of the Mount Roberts Stewards, a volunteer group.

Another way to focus visitors' attention to the beaten path is a series of 11 interpretive signs to be installed this summer along the trail. The signs will start near the tram and weave their way to an alpine garden above the cross, Gerrish said.

``We tried to give people sort of a general overview of an above-the-tree line natural history up there,'' said naturalist Kathy Hocker.

She and Richard Carstensen of Discovery Southeast wrote and designed the signs about nature, and added old and new photographs and original drawings.

Gerrish researched information about Tlingit history and mining history. One of her signs will show how Natives caught goats.

``Even though I've lived here 20 years, I learned some things by reading the Discovery signs,'' Gerrish said.

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