Indian River pedestrian bridge to close on May 8 through mid-August for construction project

Construction to replace the Indian River pedestrian bridge in Sitka National Historical Park will begin Monday, May 8. Cross-park foot traffic will be closed through mid-August. Signs and maps will direct pedestrians around the park during construction. The detour will be through the Sitka Fine Arts Campus to Sawmill Creek Road. Detour maps are available at the park’s visitor’s center or the Russian Bishop’s House information desks.

The existing foot bridge is now 50 years old and is beginning to show signs of deterioration. It is National Park Service policy to repair or replace infrastructure prior to the occurrence of any safety issues. The new bridge will assure that park visitors can safely cross Indian River for decades to come.

Site preparation begins on Monday, May 8. The actual removal and reconstruction of bridge components will start May 15 and continue until Aug. 15.

“The in-river work will be completed by July 15th to protect the mid-summer salmon run,” said Brinnen Carter, chief of resources. “Hopefully, all the work will be completed by then, but it is likely that the contractor will have above-water work to complete between July 15th and August 15th. We know that the bridge is a critical component of the community’s walking trails and we want it back in operation as soon as possible.”

The trail linking the park’s east and west sections across the river is heavily-used. Pedestrian traffic will be re-directed with signs and maps through the Sitka Fine Arts Campus and down Sawmill Creek Road until the new, wider bridge is in place.

The new bridge, designed with considerable public input, will retain the character of the existing bridge but be wider to provide easier passage and better wildlife viewing.

For more information about this work, please contact Angie Richman at 747-0132 or Mike Trainor at 747-0150.

Alaska Region of the U.S. Forest Service invites public to help identify priority trail maintenance work

JUNEAU, Alaska – The Alaska Region is inviting the public to help identify trails that will be part of a U.S. Forest Service effort with partners and volunteers to increase the pace of trail maintenance.

Nationwide, the Forest Service will select nine to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance contributed to reduced access, potential harm to natural resources or trail users and/or has the potential for increased future deferred maintenance costs.

“We look forward to receiving public comments identifying trails in need of maintenance that partners and volunteers are ready to support on the Chugach and Tongass National Forests,” said Becky Nourse, Acting Regional Forester of the Alaska Region. “Trail users and other members of the public can provide important feedback that will help us prioritize our trail maintenance efforts.”

The Alaska Region has until April 20 to submit at least three regional proposals to National Headquarters. Those proposals will be weighed against proposals submitted by other Forest Service regions.

The trail maintenance effort is outlined in the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016 and aims to increase trail maintenance by volunteers and partners by 100% by the end of 2021.

The selected sites will be part of the initial focus that will include a mosaic of areas with known trail maintenance needs that include areas near urban and remote areas, such as wilderness, are of varying sizes and trail lengths, are motorized and non-motorized, and those that incorporate a varied combination of partner and volunteer approaches and solutions.

The Forest Service manages more than 158,000 miles of trail – the largest trail system in the nation – providing motorized and non-motorized trail access across 154 national forests and grasslands. These Forest Service trails are well-loved and highly used with more than 84 million trail visits annually, helping to support mostly rural economies.

The Forest Service receives widespread support from tens of thousands of volunteers and partners each year who, in 2015, contributed nearly 1.4 million hours – a value of about $31.6 million – in maintenance and repair of nearly 30,000 miles of trails.

However, limited funding compounded by the rising cost of wildfire operations, has reduced the Forest Service’s ability to meet all of the agency’s standards for safety, quality recreation and economic and environmental sustainability.

To provide ideas and suggestions on potential priority areas and approaches for incorporating increased trail maintenance assistance from partners and volunteers, contact your local Forest Service office or Regional Trail Program Manager Sharon Seim by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 17. You are encouraged to provide feedback by phone at: 907-586-8804, or by email at: AKTrailsStewardship@fs.fed.us.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

The Alaska Region of the U.S. Forest Service manages almost 22 million acres of land within the Chugach and Tongass National Forests to meet society’s needs for a variety of goods, services, and amenities while enhancing the Forests’ health and productivity, and to foster similar outcomes for State and private forestland across Alaska. See our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r10/home for more information.

Sitka National Historical Park starts Indian River Pedestrian Bridge and other projects for the season

Foot traffic on the trail linking the Sitka National Historical Park’s east and west sections across the Indian River pedestrian bridge will be restricted over the summer months as crews begin work to replace the almost 50-year-old foot bridge.

Access will be limited for periods of time from Wednesday, April 12, through Friday, April 14, as crews begin the project by clearing trees and brush in the construction zone near the bridge. This tree removal is being done by Saturday, April 15, before migratory birds may nest in the trees. A visual inspection of the trees to be removed has revealed no nests. Pedestrians should use caution during this as this work will be completed using heavy equipment

On May 8, the removal of the old bridge will begin, closing the cross-park trail completely at least until Aug. 15. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued a permit to allow in-water work to take place during this time. The bridge replacement project was delayed last summer when it was discovered the bridge would need new footings.

“We hope the work will result in minimum inconvenience for our many park visitors,” said Mike Trainor, Sitka National Historical Park Chief of Maintenance. “But all structures have a lifetime. For the long-term convenience and safety of cross-park traffic, the installation of a new bridge is necessary. And of course we are also mindful of the importance of Indian River as a salmon-bearing stream, so we will do everything possible for this work to pose a minimum disruption to that natural cycle of life.”

The new bridge will be similar in design and slightly wider to accommodate a larger number of visitors viewing the salmon runs while still allowing pedestrians and people walking their bikes to safely pass.

Park crews also will be engaged over the next several months in clearing selected understory and small trees over a half-acre between the park’s fort site and the shoreline. The goal is to help restore views from the fort site to the ocean to approximate the topography that existed during the Battle of 1804, the event that gave rise to the naming of park land as a national monument in 1910.

For more information about this work, please contact Angie Richman at 747-0132 or Mike Trainor at 747-0150.

Sitka National Historical Park to host battlefield restoration meetings, including a walking meeting

Photo courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park

Photo courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park

SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignSitka National Historical Park invites the public to attend two meetings and a “Walk-and-Talk” in February to comment on park plans to restore the view to the sea from the Tlingít fort site of Shis’kí Noow. The project goal is to restore the landscape to an appearance more closely representative of what it looked like in 1804, and provide visitors a more accurate and better physical representation of the 1804 Tlingít-Russian battlefield.

The two public meetings will begin with a presentation by the park’s Chief of Resources, Brinnen Carter PhD, at 5 p.m., on Wednesdays, Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center. The “Walk-and-Talk” will be held at noon on Feb. 15, starting at the Visitor Center, and will last approximately one hour.

At all three events, Dr. Carter will present the scope of the project, answer questions, and gather public opinion. Work is scheduled to take place this summer.

For more information, please contact Angie Richman at 747-0132.

Five Sitkans to give presentation about their Via Francigena treks on Jan. 26 at the Sitka Public Library

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img_8746Last year, five Sitka residents hiked part of the 2,000-kilometer Via Francigena historic pilgrimage trail from Canterbury, England, to Rome. The five — Bridget Kauffman, Ted Laufenberg, Connie Kreiss, Karen Hegyi and Julien Naylor — will give a free presentation and slideshow on their hikes at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Sitka Public Library.

“There is so much variety along such a long walk,” Kreiss said. “The 30-kilometer stretch in England to the ferry in Dover is pastoral and a lovely introduction to England’s famous walking paths. Northeast France has canal systems to walk along, the numerous World War I cemeteries and battle sites, the vineyards of Champagne, miles of flat farmland — corn and grain production — and then the foothills and Dura Mountains into Switzerland. All along the way there are magnificent old cathedrals, and some monasteries and convents provided occasional hospitality for the night for pilgrim walkers. Italy has huge variety, starting in the French speaking Aosta valley in the north, down through the plains with flooded rice fields of the Po River Valley, through Tuscany with its hill-top walled towns and tourists, and on to Rome.”

img_8842According to Kreiss, Kauffman was the first of the Sitkans to hike part of the trail, hiking the last 400 kilometers from Aulla into Rome last spring. Kauffman was joined for the last few days of her hike by her husband, Laufenberg. Kreiss said she was the next to head to Europe, and she hiked nearly the entire trail from Canterbury to Rome, except for St. Bernard’s Pass between Switzerland and Italy due to deep snow. Hegyi and Naylor also walked most of the way later in the spring, starting from Canterbury.

“We all had different experiences,” Kreiss said.

“We hope to cover something on the history of this particular pilgrimage walk. It dates back at least to the Roman era, and some of the walk in England, France and Italy is on old Roman paving stones. I don’t recall seeing Roman roads in Switzerland, but I’m sure the route follows old Roman roads. After all we know, ‘All roads in Europe lead to Rome.’ The present walk is based on 10th Century documentation from Archbishop Sigeric, of Canterbury, who walked to Rome in 970 to meet with the Pope and then walked home again. His scribe made a record of each town they slept in, and that is the basis of the 79 stages of the current Via Francigena. The Via Francigena was made an official Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1994, and has been developed, more or less, by national and regional organizations in the four countries it covers,” Kreiss said.

img_8968“Walking it is probably similar to walking the famous Camino Frances in Spain to Santiago 30 or 40 years ago. People who live along the route often recognize you are a pilgrim as you walk along, and there are some places to stay which are only available to walkers with the special pilgrim’s credential (the little passport which you get stamped every day, so that when you arrive at the Vatican, you have proof that you walked the route). But it is more solitary than the Spanish camino and distances are sometimes longer between towns and accommodations. Probably less than 200 folks walk the entire route each year. Large numbers of walkers do some of the Italian portion.”

img_8139Kreiss said the five hikers will talk about their personal motivations for doing this walk, what to carry, what to expect, and about what we experienced along the way. They will talk about the variety of paths underfoot, the types of lodging, and of course the great food.

“We hope to inspire Sitkans to consider this long walk, or one of the easier pilgrim walks in Europe,” Kreiss said.

Sitka Trail Works, City of Sitka to host meeting for Phase 6 of the Sitka Cross Trail system

Map Proof3

SitkaTrailWorksLogoSitka Trail Works, in partnership with the City and Borough of Sitka, is planning Phase 6 improvements to the Sitka Cross Trail system. A public meeting to receive comment on the project will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Detailed maps and information about this project will be shared at this meeting.

The Phase 6 project will build a new multi-use component of the Cross Trail system extending from the Harbor Mountain Road to Starrigavan. The public input received at the public meeting will be a major factor in determining the final trail alignment.

Questions about the project may be directed to Lynne Brandon of Sitka Trail Works at 747-7244 or trail@gci.net. Please send an email or written comments may be mailed to Sitka Trail Works at 801 Halibut Point Road, Sitka, Alaska, 99835. Comments need to be received by Dec. 14.

Sitka Trail Works to host annual meeting and potluck dinner on Monday, Oct. 24

SitkaTrailWorksLogo

Sitka Trail Works will hold its annual meeting and potluck dinner from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, at the Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Members and trail enthusiasts are invited to the meeting and asked to bring a main dish, side dish, or dessert to share. Sitka Trail Works will supply beverages, paper plates, etc. Join us for an evening of fun and friendship.

Meeting highlights include a review of this year’s accomplishments, the election of one new board member, ceremonial matters, and a presentation by Matt Goff on the Natural History of Southeast Alaska.

For further information, please call Sitka Trail Works at 747-7244.