A cabin with a view

New state park shelter built at St. James Bay

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2002

Hunters, fishermen and kayakers exploring St. James Bay State Marine Park, across Lynn Canal from Bridget Cove, will soon have a place to seek shelter.

Volunteers have nearly finished work on a 14-by-18-foot public use cabin, built by the nonprofit group Territorial Sportsmen and the Alaska Division of Parks.

The cabin could be open to the public sometime late this fall or early next year, said Mike Eberhard, Southeast chief ranger for State Parks.

"It's in its final stages, where it's dry inside," Eberhard said.

"I've heard people say it's going to be the most spectacular cabin in Southeast," Eberhard said. "It's got a great view on a sunny day."

Visitors can see the Herbert and Eagle glaciers and the Chilkat Mountains, Eberhard said.

St. James Bay is used by moose, bear and duck hunters, fishermen and kayakers, but having a cabin there may open up more possibilities, Eberhard said. The area gets more snow than Juneau and its meadows could attract cross-country skiers.

"My guess is over time people are going to discover more uses than just hunting and fishing and kayaking," Eberhard said.

The building also may provide shelter for people who find themselves stuck at St. James Bay when the weather turns bad.

"We've always looked on cabins as a safety feature," said Ron Somerville of Territorial Sportsmen, the same group that puts on the Golden North Salmon Derby.

The cabin is a "functional memorial" to Bob Hinman, a retired state biologist and Territorial Sportsmen member who died in 2000, Somerville said.

When Hinman died, his family asked that memorial contributions be sent to Territorial Sportsmen. The group decided to use those donations to help build the cabin.

A legislative grant, donations and discounts from Southeast businesses, plus lots of volunteer labor, helped put up the structure. Don Abel Building Supplies, Alaska Outdoor Council, Icy Straits Lumber, Oliver's Trophies and Sea Level Transport pitched in, Somerville said.

Jack Manning, owner of Duck Creek Market, worked as volunteer construction foreman.

Eberhard estimates the cabin is costing about half the $40,000 it would cost if State Parks built it with no donations.

Hinman's daughter, Becky, and two of his sons, Mike and Chuck, helped on the project.

It was a great experience, Becky Hinman said.

"Besides the fact that it was for my dad, the whole thing of having all these volunteers coming in and putting this cabin together was amazing," she said. "It was a really fun project."

Bob Hinman used to fish for halibut there, and he would have loved the location, his daughter said.

"It's a really pretty spot, too," she said. The cabin is at the tip of one of several islands within St. James Bay.

"At low tide, you can walk this ring of islands," she said.

The cabin will have two sets of bunks, and like other remote public cabins, will have no electricity or running water. The cost to reserve the cabin hasn't been determined yet, but it will probably be $25 or $35, Eberhard said.

An oil stove will heat the cabin, with a wood stove for backup. Visitors will need to supply their own fuel in either case.

Manning guesses the group has about three or four weekends of work left on the cabin.

Territorial Sportsmen has agreed to make a trip a year to the cabin for maintenance, Somerville said.

Eberhard said the parks division will decide this fall, in consultation with its advisory board, where to build another cabin, hopefully also with volunteer help and donations.

Cathy Brown is a Juneau writer who has worked for the Juneau Empire and The Associated Press.

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