KETCHIKAN - A good hike can be stimulating, so it's appropriate that federal stimulus funds will go toward improving several area hiking trails, including the popular Perseverance Trail in Ketchikan.
The Ketchikan-Misty Fiords Ranger District recently was awarded $850,000 for six trail improvement projects. Staff Officer Karen Brand said the funds will pay for much-needed work on Perseverance Trail, Upper Silvis Trail, three trails in the Misty Fiords National Monument and a trail near Hyder.
For Perseverance, Brand said the plan is to convert much of the dilapidated boardwalk to gravel, which is significantly easier and cheaper to maintain. Any sections that can't be converted to gravel will be replaced with new boardwalk, she said.
Perseverance Trail is popular because it is on the road system with the trailhead located in the Ward Lake recreation area. Brand said the boardwalk can be slippery and dangerous, particularly during winter.
The work on Upper Silvis will focus on a section extending from the Upper Silvis Lake dam.
"There's a very mucky, wet section through there where we're probably looking at a re-route and looking at putting gravel in there, too," Brand said.
Forest Service crews are scoping the trail for possible new routes, she said, and there will be an opportunity for the public to weigh in with comments and concerns.
"The idea is that it will allow easier and better access up to the Mahoney Mountain area," Brand said.
The mountain goat population has increased, she said, so the state Department of Fish and Game opened a goat-hunting season. She said her office has heard from hunters who would have appreciated a better trail on which to hike their kill down.
The work in Misty Fiords includes improving Manzanita Trail, Brand said, particularly replacing a logjam crossing that has shifted; Nooya Lake Trail, where crews will replace a bridge that washed away about 20 years ago; and Winstanley Lake Trail, where crews will restore access through an area that a landslide took out in 2007.
Titan Trail in Hyder will get a new bridge over Fish Creek, she said. That trail is near a bear-viewing area that the Forest Service manages, about three miles north of Hyder. She said the creek is about a quarter-mile from the beginning of the 4.5-mile trail.
"People are underutilizing that trail," she said. "If you don't have XtraTufs on, you're not going to cross. The bridge over there will help people use a very beautiful trail."
Brand said Titan Trail gradually leads to an alpine ridge that marks the border between Alaska and British Columbia.
"It's actually my favorite trail on the district," she said. "It's a nice grade with switchbacks up the mountain, then you get these views of the Salmon River. It's gorgeous."
Brand said the six projects have been on the list for a while, but the work had to wait because there wasn't enough money for maintenance.
Other local trail projects are in the works, including a planned new trail leading from the south end of Gravina Island Highway to Black Sands Beach, and planned improvement of a portion of the Rainbird Trail.
The Gravina trail is in the early planning stages, and is a cooperative project between the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and State Parks. Ketchikan State Parks Ranger Mary Kowalczyk said she and a borough representative hiked out a rough route recently, although the route could change by the time the trail is designed.
The next step is to "get someone who is a real trails expert, get some costs and go from there," she said.
How to fund the project has not been decided, she said.
If the trail could be built exactly the way she wanted, Kowalczyk said, it would be a nonmotorized multi-use trail, wide enough for at least two people to walk side-by-side and easy enough to push a baby buggy. It also would lead through muskeg, brush and forest, she said, passing by some beautiful overlooks and ending up at the beach.
Borough Planning Director Tom Williams said his department was working on how to fund the project. If it were built, he said, the trail would provide new recreational opportunities, and would connect the highway to the other side of Gravina Island. He said that could increase interest in some of the property on Gravina, and spark development.