Juneau is a city lacking for flat spaces. Most hiking trails on the road system trace paths up switchbacks, across stair steps of muskeg and meadow, and down into valleys.
But with a multi-year renovation of the Treadwell Ditch Trail, gaining steam this summer, local hikers, bikers and cross-country skiers will be able to enjoy more than 12 miles of gentle, nearly flat hiking on Douglas Island.
Work on the project this summer includes the installation of three new bridges and the reworking of stretches of trail, Trail Mix Executive Director Erik Boraas said. Boraas was supervising a Trail Mix crew as they worked to install a new bridge at Paris Creek.
Hikers used to cross the creek on over an old dam, but with slick moss and running water coming over the edge, walking across the dam was dangerous. Coastal Helicopters flew the 31-foot laminate bridge this week and Trail Mix assembled it on site.
With the Paris Creek crossing, Treadwell Ditch Trail is now safe to hike, bike and ski from the trailhead for Mount Bradley, known by the nickname Mount Jumbo, to Blueberry Hill.
“You can now easily go all the way to Blueberry Hills/Dan Moller trailhead,” Boraas said.
Other upgrades coming this summer will include new bridges at Eagle Creek and Kowee Creek. Those installations will go a long way to improving the trail between Blueberry Hill and Bonnie Brae, on Douglas.
It’s hard to say when the whole trail will be finished. Trail Mix has to secure funds “by hook or by crook,” Boraas said, and they’re still working on funding sources to improve other parts of the trail.
The Paris Creek Bridge was paid for by the City and Borough of Juneau’s 1 percent sales tax fund, while the Kowee Creek and Eagle Creek bridges utilize funds from the U.S. Forest Service’s Rural Schools Act.
The Juneau Community Foundation is currently fundraising for additional bridges and work and is hoping to get matching funds from National Forest Fund, the nonprofit arm of the USFS.
When all is said and done — sometime in the next few years — hikers will be able to walk from the Eaglecrest ski area lodge to Mount Bradley trailhead without issue.
“Once we get the bridges between Bonnie Brae and Dan Moller, it’s going to be a lot easier. There are still a few small bridges that need to go in from Bonnie Brae to Eaglecrest, but we’ll tackle that next,” Boraas said.
The trail slopes down north to south on a 1 percent grade, carrying water in a ditch which runs parallel to portions of the trail. It was originally created over 100 years ago by several different engineers working to bring water to the Treadwell Mine.
This is the latest project in a developing partnership between Trail Mix Inc. and the USFS. Last year, Trail Mix partnered with the Forest Service in a formal, five-year agreement to help maintain public use cabins and trails in the Tongass and Chugach national forests.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.