Petersburg is seeing an expansion of several trails this summer. Two popular walking paths, the Hungry Point Trail and Raven’s Roost Trail are scheduled to see construction of new segments.
The Petersburg Indian Association has a 20-year plan for transportation improvement projects using federal grant money. The PIA has been focusing on road work and sidewalk replacement but the federally-recognized tribal government has added new trail construction to the list.
“The PIA right now is improving all the sidewalks in Petersburg to make them all handicapped accessible,” Susan Harai, tribal transportation director, explained. “They wanted to add trail building onto that because it was, there’s safety issues, plus it’s the well being of the community and it’s the way the council voted to go.”
Rising to the top of the list of trail projects is an extension of the gravel path that goes from the ball fields to Hungry Point. That half mile gravel walkway completed around 2003, built over three years by the Parks and Recreation department and volunteer labor.
Harai said a new portion of trail will connect that path to 14th Street and will be built by PIA employees. “It starts at the ball field and where the first red bench is, that’s approximately where it takes off. It goes along the top of the muskeg there and makes a curve in a C because we have to follow the five percent grade and then it comes down the hill in the muskeg and there’s a little creek at the bottom, we’re gonna go over that. Then we’re gonna tie into 14th street. That way it will make a loop, two different loops like a figure eight.”
There’s a lower section of the planned trail that would connect from 14th street back to the Hungry point end of the existing path. The PIA council voted this month to go forward with the upper part of the loop linking the ball fields to 14th Street, but Harai says that lower section will need further review. Meanwhile, the extension has been designed and it went through borough review and a public meeting this spring. The route goes through muskeg wetlands and building a gravel walkway similar to the existing path would require a wetlands fill permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Instead the plan is to build a five foot wide raised wooden boardwalk, handicap accessible, with bull rails on the side, like the Forest Service’s path at Blind River Rapids.
Harai said the hope is to add loop options to the current trail. “The vision for this is to have a roundabout, that when people walk the trail, most of the people walk to the end turn around and go back. What is much more enjoyable is to go on a loop. And so now you have two different loops you could do up to the ball field.”
An elevated wooden boardwalk is more expensive to build than a gravel path. The Petersburg borough is contributing grant money of 50-thousand dollars while the PIA is putting in around 300-thousand dollars. The new trail is likely to take at least two years to complete and construction could start as soon as July.
Meanwhile, a nearby National Forest trail to the Ravens Roost cabin will be getting a new segment of gravel trail, a little over a half mile long. It will connect the new gravel path at Sandy Beach Park completed last year with the main wooden plank walkway in the muskeg behind Petersburg’s airport.
Brad Hunter is recreation and wilderness staff officer at the Petersburg Ranger District. “The trail will go straight across the haul road from where the new construction currently ends. Then it’ll be a 7-8 foot wide gravel trail, goes up along the muskeg then cuts through the trees for a while and in that stretch there’s a creek that it crosses. So that’ll have a big culvert in it, big pipe. Then it ends up in the next muskeg and ends up at the top.”
For people familiar with the lower Ravens Roost trail, that connection to the existing trail already has a short spur boardwalk leading into an open muskeg. This segment doubles the length of the gravel path on the lower end of Ravens Roost trail.
Six companies bid on the project and the Forest Service awarded the work for 160,500 dollars to a company called Korpela, based in Hyder. Hunter says the work could begin in August and could be done in two months. The agency purchased the rock from Rock and Road Construction of Petersburg. The old portion of boardwalk plank near the haul road will be removed and used for the new gravel path.
Hunter said the money comes from Federal Lands Access Program, formerly known as the Federal Highway Program. “So we’re experiencing decreasing budgets in our normal annual appropriations from Congress for recreation. But we are being pretty successful in pursuing some of these specialized funds, the grants that we’ve written for. And we’re trying to build trails that are more durable, more sustainable, with a long term plan that will have less maintenance over the years.” Generally that means rock and gravel paths instead of boardwalk. The Forest Service has long-term plans to redo the upper section of the Ravens Trail and is working on surveying and design but the agency hasn’t secured funding for that additional construction.
Yet another recreation project in the area will extend the bike path along Haugen Drive from the airport to Sandy Beach as part of a larger road reconstruction project this year and next.