Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion 
                                The Devil’s Creek Trail in Chugach National Forest in June 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion)

Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion The Devil’s Creek Trail in Chugach National Forest in June 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion)

During pandemic, Chugach National Forest mostly stays the same

One of the differences will be in how much volunteer help the forest gets.

Despite the new coronavirus threat, a normal summer is shaping up on the trails, campgrounds and cabins of the Chugach National Forest.

Alicia King, public affairs and partnership officer for Chugach National Forest, said one of the differences will be how much volunteer help the forest gets.

Chugach National Forest includes Seward Ranger District, which is responsible for many of the trails, campgrounds and cabins in the area between Seward, Cooper Landing and Hope.

“We have a number of volunteer agreements,” King said. “At this time, we have postponed many of those agreements until such a time we can safely engage volunteers and follow safety recommendations, making sure it’s safe not only for the public, but for volunteers and employees.”

An example would be groups of volunteers that work on trails.

“Without volunteers, we cannot accomplish as much as we would love to accomplish,” King said. “We still do have trail crews out there, but we’re not able to get as much stuff done as we have in the past.”

Irene Lindquist, a forest technician with the Seward Ranger District, wrote in an email update that the Russian Lakes Trail has been cleared of trees. Lindquist also wrote that vegetation on the trail is low and parking at the trailhead is free through June 10.

King said bikers should also be aware that they can still leave ruts in wet areas at higher elevations. Those ruts can become bigger and bigger when they collect running water and erode. Lindquist wrote the Resurrection Pass Trail is still wet on about 6 miles to each side of Resurrection Pass.

“We recommend that folks not bike at higher elevations until those trails have a chance to dry out,” King said.

Parts of the Resurrection Pass Trail were burned in the Swan Lake Fire. King said users should be aware of trees weakened due to the fire and ash pits. Signs at the trailhead have safety measures that should be taken in burned areas, including staying on the trail, keeping pets leashed and keeping children close.

“As always, if somebody sees something that doesn’t seem right, they should call our Seward office and let somebody know,” King said. “These are our public lands and they belong to the public.”

There are plenty more ways the public can help.

Dozens of campfires in the forest have already been found untended, according to King. She said users should bring a shovel or a bucket of water to make sure a fire is out.

“It is crucial for people to understand how to put campfires out, considering 98% of fires in the Chugach National Forest are human caused,” King said. “That means 98% of fires can be prevented.”

Carrying all trash out of the forest is always important, but becomes more critical with the lack of volunteers. Lindquist wrote in her update of recently having to carry a bunch of plastic jugs out of the forest.

“We certainly want the public to leave no trace, and take any trash and debris and take it back out,” King said. “Don’t leave it on the trails and don’t leave it in the campground.”

King said Chugach National Forest has contractors that run campgrounds. Hosts are in place at all the campgrounds that normally have them. That doesn’t change the fact leaving trash behind can be unsightly and attract predators.

Cabins are still open but King said they are not cleaned between uses. Users should come prepared with sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer ready to clean the cabin before and after use.

Chugach National Forest also has contracted with a company to clean outhouses, but it’s always a good idea to bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

“It’s your home,” King said. “Treat the forest and public lands like you would your home.”

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