The second year of reconstruction for a popular hiking trail near Petersburg is starting up this summer and is on schedule to be finished later this year. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service’s Ravens Roost cabin at the end of that trail has funding secured to be replaced next year.
Last year the company Oregon Woods helicoptered gravel and hundreds of concrete steps onto the steep Ravens Trail behind Petersburg’s airport. The Forest Service has contracted to replace about two miles of the 4.2-mile trail and to decommission the last mile of boardwalk through the muskeg and timber at about 1800 feet above sea level on the ridge behind town.
Petersburg district ranger Ted Sandhofer said that trail work is resuming this summer.
“As you know last year there was a lot of helicopter work,” Sandhofer said. “There’s going to be limited helicopter work this year but there will be times when we’ll be closing just short sections of the trail off to make sure that the contractor and the public is safe and it’s safe to work around there. We still got some gravel to place around the stair treads. There’s actually some metal stairs that are going up there where the old wood stairs, the real steep wood stairs were. So there will be some times that we’re closing portions of the trail but for the most part we’re going to leave it open.”
Workers for a subcontracting company are living at the cabin this summer and restarting that trail reconstruction. It’s been rerouted in places and the climb is much easier than the old pathway. The gravel and concrete should also last longer than the old wooden steps.
“I’ve been up that trail many times, I used to do the snow survey when I was at the district earlier and boy I think you cut that travel time down by at least a third or so just because of the routing of the trail,” Sandhofer said. “And I think that’s it’s just a great thing, especially for us locals. I haven’t heard anything but just glowing comments on the new trail and the access.”
The plan is to finish that trail work by this fall.
Meanwhile the Ravens Roost cabin at the end of the trail is slated to be decommissioned next year and the Forest Service has secured funding for a new cabin closer to town. The agency released an environmental review on that work this spring. Review of that was part of a much larger project for timber sales, stream restoration and other work under the Central Tongass Project. But completion of that larger review has been delayed by a recent court ruling on Prince of Wales logging and habitat work. So the agency split this cabin project out from that larger environmental review and is poised to approve the new structure on its own.
Sandhofer described what will likely be a one-story handicapped accessible building.
That new cabin is going to house about six to eight person capacit,” he said. “It’ll have a propane heater, a covered deck. It’s in kind of a different spot, not way up on the ridge but in a nice spot by a little pond.”
That new cabin will have a table built by local high school students Brekin Davis and Adam Ware. Since it will be over a mile closer to the trailhead at Sandy Beach, it will be a shorter hike and less likely to strand unprepared hikers.
“I’m on the search and rescue and we always, there’s people that get up to the alpine or to the muskegs there and then think they’re at the cabin and it’s still a little ways awa,” Sandhofer explained. “So this new cabin site I’m hoping will get less search and rescue business.”
Decommissioning of that final mile of trail will likely happen this year, before the old cabin is taken out and the new one put in. That replacement won’t happen until next year. Parts of the old cabin may be reclaimed for other projects. It was custom built with three stories and includes a rooftop entry for deep snow years. It dates back to the late 1970s. The Petersburg Pilot reported on the opening of that new cabin in January of 1980. Sandhofer says trail work costs were around 800-thousand dollars and the cabin replacement over 400-thousand.
A comment period for cabin replacement ends July 6th and Sandhofer will sign a decision on that project after that.