One of Kodiak’s most used and best loved trails will be getting a facelift over the next few years. Island Trails Network will be rehabilitating Saltery Cove Trail after the borough assembly awarded the nonprofit a contract to do the work at the July 16 assembly meeting.
The project will cost $541,000 over three and a half years to improve the trail, with $405,900 of that coming from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and $14,600 from the state. Island Trails Network will contribute $20,000 in cash and $100,600 in in-kind work and equipment.
The borough had previously voted to accept the money in June. The group unanimously agreed to give Island Trails Network the contract, with Andy Schroeder recused, since he is the executive director of Island Trails.
“The trail out to Saltery has been part of the fabric of our society, for the lack of a better term, since World War II,” Borough Manager Michael Powers said.
Official documentation of who owns what, however, has never been entirely clear. The trail crosses numerous pieces of property owned by Leisnoi, Inc.
The borough and Island Trails Network have been surveying and getting right-of-way for the past several years. Part of the project will be to obtain easements for the full length of the trail.
Maintenance will be the other part. Saltery Cove Trail is one of the most popular access trails on Kodiak. It provides a connection to eight salmon-carrying streams and tributaries, as well as a large chunk of Unit 8 game management land, where bears, mountain goats and deer can be hunted. ATVs, dirt bikes and side-by-sides roar up and down the 20 miles of trail every day.
“I’ve been concerned with access to Saltery Trail road for years. There’s been some erosion that potentially could have eradicated our use of this road,” Assembly Member Julie Kavanaugh said at the July 16 meeting.
After getting easements straightened out, Island Trails Network will assess and rehabilitate all 20 of those miles. It’s a big project and will be completed over the course of nearly four years.
The network has already completed easement work and assessment of the first phase, the Hurst Creek segment, and hopes to start work next year according to a timetable laid out in their application for the grant.
Phase II, the Saltery Lake segment, is closer to the ocean and will be done in 2022. Phase III, the Lake Miriam Spur segment, will be done in 2023.
Tour operators that take visitors on fishing trips and other adventures said these improvements were sorely needed.
“It’s a heavily used trail and it’s really rough right now,” Stephanie Wyszkowski of Kodiak Outdoor Service said.
Wyszkowski’s company is only one of many companies that depend on the trail for business. Fixing the trail up will also benefit local governments that need tax revenue from tourists, she said.
“It’s a huge source of revenue as well. We take a lot of clients out into Saltery, so that affects tourism as well,” she said.