Chugach National Forest raises rates for cabin rentals

Photo courtesy of Ryan Marquis

Photo courtesy of Ryan Marquis

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct the cabins in Tongass National Forest and the completion year of the National Forest Service market survey.

Kenai resident Ryan Marquis and his family have made a tradition of staying at Barber Cabin in Chugach National Forest — a 320 square foot log cabin on the shore of Lower Russian Lake approximately 3.5 miles from the Russian Lakes trailhead — for the last several years.

“It’s a nice hike in, but it’s a really well-maintained trail — you can get in and out really easily,” Marquis said. “It’s a nice, secluded cabin on a lake… it’s really beautiful country back there, a nice place to go spend a few days.”

The cabin includes tools for splitting firewood — which Marquis said his family usually brings from the trailhead in a wagon — and a metal canoe for boating on Lower Russian Lake.

Barber Cabin can be rented for a daily fee of $45. The National Forest Service has proposed increasing the daily rate for Barber Cabin and the 40 other rental cabins in Chugach National Forest by between $15 and $65.

At the end of the three years the National Forest Service will use to implement the fee change, Barber Cabin will cost $75 per day during the peak season — between May 15 and August 31 — and $50 per day the rest of the year.

143 cabins in the Tongass National Forest will see similar rate increases.

Chugach’s Seward District Recreation Program Leader John Eavis, who oversees maintenance of the 18 cabins in the district, said inflation has driven up the cost of materials and transportation for his workers. Most of Eavis’ cabins are within 2-15 miles of a trailhead, but three on the eastern peninsula are accessible only by floatplane, which Eavis estimated costs around $800 per trip.

“(Maintenance needs) can be a pretty wide variety of wear and tear from users, weather, and aging,” Eavis said.

Items that often need to be repaired or replaced include chimneys, woodstoves, windows, bunks and counters, decks and stairs, and boats. In addition, Eavis said his crews have to dig new outhouse pits every three to ten years, depending on a site’s popularity.

According to a Forest Service Frequently Asked Questions document, Chugach has spent about $314,500 on its cabins in 2015. Of that expense, $140,000 — about 44% — has come from fees, with the rest being funded by federal appropriations that Eavis said have shrunk in recent years.

Based on inflation and use trends, the U.S. Forest Service calculated that Chugach will spend $368,000 on its cabins in 2019. After the third year of rate increases, the Forest Service expects fees to fund 70 percent of this cost.

According to an information release by the National Forest Service, “revenue from cabin rental fees has remained mostly static since the 1990s, (while) operations and maintenance costs have changed over time.” The proposed increase follows a market appraisal finished in 2007.

Currently, most of the Chugach cabins cost $35 per day in the peak season, with four that cost $25 per day and eleven that cost $45 per day. Right now, non-peak daily rates are either $25, $35, or $45.

In the first year after the rate change, all rentals will be set at $50.

For many cabins, this will remain the permanent non-peak rate. However, 20 high-use cabins will see a peak-season increase to $60 per day in the second year, and an increase to $75 the next year.

Two cabins near Cordova accessible only by plane — at Martin Lake and Nellie Martin River — will increase to $100 per day by the end of year three.

Marquis said the increased prices wouldn’t make him hesitant about using the cabins.

“We started going to different cabins years ago, in part because of how cheap they were,” Marquis said. “It was a cheap way to do vacations locally, but even at (the increased) price, I think it’s worth it. It’s a good value still.”

Lisa Beranek, a member of the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor club, said she has previously rented Chugach’s cabins at Upper Russian River, Aspen Flats, Resurrection River, and the Barber and Dale Clemens cabins — at daily rates that currently range from $35 to $45 but will rise after three years to between $60 to $75.

Beranek said that while $45 is a usual daily price for cabins she has rented in the past — both in Chugach and elsewhere — local cabins are above-average in her experience.

“As someone who’s lived outside the state of Alaska and enjoyed public-use cabins on federal and state land, some of the cabins up here are the nicest cabins I’ve ever seen or stayed in,” Beranek said. “In parts of the Lower 48 I’ve paid $45 to stay in a fire lookout that has a giant hole in the roof and rain coming in around the woodstove. So I think as long as funds are being spent responsibly and efficiently to take care of those cabins and keep them in good condition for future use, then I’m totally okay with that.”

Alaska’s Regional Forester Beth Pendleton will decide when the new fees will take effect.

The Forest Service will take public comments on the proposed increase until Nov. 30.

Comments can be made either online or by phone at (907) 586-8804.

 

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

tease
House District 6 race gets 3rd candidate

Alana Greear filed a letter of intent to run on April 5

Kenai City Hall is seen on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai water treatment plant project moves forward

The city will contract with Anchorage-based HDL Engineering Consultants for design and engineering of a new water treatment plant pumphouse

Students of Soldotna High School stage a walkout in protest of the veto of Senate Bill 140 in front of their school in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi students walk out for school funding

The protest was in response to the veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding

The Kenai Courthouse as seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clam Gulch resident convicted of 60 counts for sexual abuse of a minor

The conviction came at the end of a three-week trial at the Kenai Courthouse

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meets in Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (screenshot)
Borough awards contract for replacement of Seward High School track

The project is part of a bond package that funds major deferred maintenance projects at 10 borough schools

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Most Read