The U.S. Forest Service is seeking more public comment on potential locations for new recreational cabins on National Forest land around Kake, Wrangell and Petersburg.
It’s the early stages of a public process to develop an environmental assessment for building one or two new cabins on both the Wrangell and Petersburg Ranger Districts. The agency wants to use federal infrastructure funding for that work. And they’re pursuing possibilities that are easier for people to get to, whether that means by road, short trail or a shorter boat ride from the communities.
During public meetings in 2018, 2019 and this April, the public provided dozens of ideas on both ranger districts. The Forest Service has released maps of those possibilities this month. The suggestions are grouped into four categories depending on their land classification and whether there are existing facilities or not.
“New places are grouped as our red group, group one and those are the ones we really want people to focus on and give us a little information about what would they want to see there, what’s important to them and where exactly if they could, if they had a GPS location or if they knew it was just in this cove in this beach that’s the kind of thing we’re really hoping to learn from folks,” said Tory Houser, the agency’s recreation staff officer for Wrangell and Petersburg.
Beyond specific location, the Forest Service also wants to hear from others who use the sites about conflicts, impacts from a new cabin or issues they’ve overlooked. The agency says the move toward more accessible sites aligns with a strategy for recreational cabins that are less expensive to maintain and used more frequently. It may mean closing older structures that don’t get much use.
The National Forest has 19 cabins on the Petersburg Ranger District and 23 on the Wrangell Ranger District for rental use by the public.
Around Kake, suggested new locations include sites on the road system near Jamaica Lake and Shamrock Lake. Shoreline spots are listed in the Keku Islands or Port Camden on Kuiu Island along with Big Creek on the northern shore of Kupreanof Island.
Some suggested spots are on the Mitkof Island road system near Petersburg, along Mitkof Highway, Woodpecker Cove Road or Snake Ridge Road. Still others include the shoreline at Dry Strait, Five Mile Creek, along the Wrangell Narrows, the mouth of Petersburg Creek and the road system on Lindenberg Penninsula.
Around Wrangell suggestions include a spot along Zimovia Highway along with a couple on the south end of Wrangell Island. Others are at Anita Bay or Burnett Inlet on neighboring Etolin Island, Snow Pass and Mustang Lake on Zarembo Island and Paradise Cove on Woronkofski Island.
Houser said agency staff will be investigating the possibilities this year.
“I’m going to have my staff going out and trying to pinpoint these locations and we’re going to try to prioritize down to probably two new sites for Petersburg, two new sites for Wrangell and that’s what we’re going to move forward and try to have our specialists be able to do their resource part of the NEPA process hopefully by the end of the summer/fall,” she said. “Since these are accessible locations we will be able to work into the fall.”
NEPA, or the National Environmental Policy Act, requires a public review of impacts for proposed projects on National Forest land. The environmental review for new cabin sites could be published by early next year. Even before that Houser said she has to identify top priorities for that federal infrastructure funding by July 18th of this year.
Houser also noted during past comment periods the Forest Service has heard good feedback about what types of amenities that cabin users like.
“Things like heat sources, you know wood versus oil or wood and oil,” Houser said. “People do like to have both of those heat sources. And that kind of means that they do like to have a bigger cabin facility to fit people and those two heat sources. We just learned furniture, various different things that, you know a lot of things that we kind of knew but to really hear it was super helpful and those kind of things we’re definitely taking into account and trying to implement.”
July 6th is the deadline for public comments on this stage. Those will be used to develop a proposal to construct new cabins. Past public comments and other information are available on the Forest Service’s website.