In Southeast Alaska, locals and visitors alike enjoy public use cabins on the Tongass National Forest. For many, these Forest Service cabins offer a place to spend summer weekends with friends and family filled with hiking, beach combing, and campfire stories. For others, they are cherished spots for subsistence hunting and fishing. Maintaining these public use cabins on the Tongass National Forest is no small task; yet it is valuable work, because these cabins are so loved and relied upon.
Southeast Alaska is an archipelago – a grouping of islands – so many of the public use cabins are located on different islands than where the communities are. Often, maintenance projects on the cabins require multiple entities to collaborate on the planning, funding, logistics, materials, food, and supplies.
Keeping these public use cabins maintained on the Tongass is important for our future generations to be able to enjoy and harvest food from Southeast Alaska’s public lands. The Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) coordinated with two local Sitka contractors, Olan Moore and Tristan Rhodes, to improve the public use cabin at Deep Bay on Zarembo Island. Located on the Wrangell Ranger District (WRD) of the Tongass, this cabin is an important subsistence hunting location for Wrangell residents.
This project was supported by the National Forest Foundation (NFF) through a grant from Rasmuson Foundation, which was matched by the Alaska Forest Fund, a partnership between the Forest Service Alaska Region and the NFF. Project work included renovating the foundation, which was sinking into muskeg, leveling the cabin, replacing decking, and hauling and setting up a new wood stove to better meet the needs of users during the colder times of the year.
Both contractors enjoyed working on site for eight days on this project. For Olan Moore, the work was both rewarding and difficult. “Logistically it was more challenging but also more fun,” he said.
“I like what SCS is doing and I love working with Olan; we work well together. I like the challenge of and really enjoy remote work, and look forward to more projects like this. If I could just figure out how to do these kinds of projects all the time, I’d be happy.”
The Wrangell Ranger District has a total of 23 public use cabins. They range from being 50 years old to newer ones like Middle Ridge, built in 2009. Victoria Houser, WRD Recreation Staff Director, is looking forward to more cabin improvement partnerships in the future.
“There are a number of really low use cabins because they are hard to get to and remote, like on our river flats,” said Houser. “We’re trying to maintain them, however, because we want to have sustainable sites that are meeting the needs for the people on the Tongass. We want to improve them and improve their use because we know they are very important to the local community.”