Those going to the Wolverine trailhead at Tsalteshi Trails will now have a place to go.
Two outhouses are being installed at the trail’s entrance on Kalifornsky Beach Road right across from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. While the entire trail system has been steadily growing in popularity, use of the nearly 3,000-meter Wolverine trail in particular has grown more rapidly than expected, said Bill Holt, maintenance manager for the trail system and project manager.
“It’s been kind of a build it and they will come kind of thing,” he said.
Installation of the outhouses is slated to be complete by mid-September, Holt said. He and others are doing as much work as they can now before he leaves for the commercial fishing season, and the rest will be completed upon his return. Tanks for the outhouses are already set into the ground. To accommodate the additions, the trailhead’s gravel driveway will be extended to reach them, Holt said.
The need for the update arose as the trail became increasingly popular and began seeing more and more users at the trailhead, Holt said.
“We started seeing more evidence of people doing things down here without an outhouse,” he said. “We lease that land from the borough and one of the conditions of our lease agreement is that we keep it in good … shape.”
Holt got funding for the outhouse project when he wrote a grant two years ago to the Recreational Trails Program, a grant which also included funding for some lighting on the trails.
One concern about installing the outhouses is that it could create even more accelerated use of, and possibly damage to, the area around the Wolverine trailhead, Holt said.
“What we’re really concerned (about) now is because it’s a popular trailhead is that people will start throwing their trash in the outhouses,” he said.
Trash receptacles will have to be added to prevent this, but they will also require upkeep on the part of volunteers, Holt said.
Alan Boraas, a professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, was involved in the cultivation of Tsalteshi Trails and early talks about updates to the Wolverine trailhead. He said one misconception about the trails is that their construction or maintenance is tied to a government entity like the city of Soldotna or the Kenai Peninsula Borough, when it’s the association and volunteers that are responsible for their upkeep.
“As the area grew I knew it was going to work,” Boraas said of the trails. “It was a lot of sweat equity in the sense of people volunteering time.”
Boraas said updates like the outhouses, lighted trails and the single-track addition all make it easier for residents to use the trails year-round.
“The back story of all of this is, in my mind, we’re trying to create a culture of the North,” Boraas said. “Eighty percent of my generation aren’t from here, 80 percent of your generation, however, are from here … and the other 20 percent chose to come here.”
Part of embracing Alaska and a culture of the North involves getting out in the comparatively harsh winters, rather than waiting and wishing for spring, he said. Making the trails convenient for people who want to use them after work or in the evenings during winter months is essential, Boraas said.
Another part of that convenience that has made the Wolverine trailhead all the more enticing is that its entrance is on K-Beach Road, compared to the access points near Skyview Middle School. In the trails’ infancy, Boraas said some people confused them as being associated with the school or only for kids. The K-Beach entrance makes enjoying the trails easier for those who don’t want to go to the school or those coming from Kenai, who won’t have to drive quite as far, he said.
“Now that the trails have a really popular entrance on K-Beach, it’s really changed the community view and I think that’s been a lot of the catalyst for a lot of the growth we’ve had in the trail system,” Holt said.