Ben Weagraff, Olivia Orth and Brian Mazurek stand next to a freshly cut black spruce off Funny River Road in Soldotna, Alaska on Dec. 8, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Peterson)

Ben Weagraff, Olivia Orth and Brian Mazurek stand next to a freshly cut black spruce off Funny River Road in Soldotna, Alaska on Dec. 8, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Peterson)

Refuge opens for holiday tree-cutting

Through Dec. 25 people can chop down a tree for Christmas in many areas of the refuge.

Starting today and through Dec. 25, people can head to almost any part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to chop down a tree for Christmas.

Refuge Park Ranger Leah Eskelin said the most common coniferous trees on the refuge are black spruce and lutz spruce, which is a white spruce hybrid species unique to the refuge. The black spruce grows smaller than the lutz, making it more appropriate for Christmas trees, but both can look a little sparse compared to other coniferous species.

“We love the trees for what they are,” Eskelin said Wednesday. “Our spruce trees aren’t the big, thick Douglas firs, but they all have their own character. My family has just started buying bigger ornaments to fill in the gaps.”

For anyone hoping to cut down a tree in the last week of November or first week of December, Eskelin suggested leaving the tree in a garage overnight before putting it inside and in water. Because the trees have spent so much time in freezing temperatures, the quick shift to a climate-controlled, indoor setting can shock the tree’s system and cause it to die early or lose needles.

Eskelin said that she and her family usually go looking for their tree in the first or second week of December.

“My birthday is in the beginning of December, so we usually line it up with that,” Eskelin said. “Waiting until closer to Christmas means a healthier tree and less vacuuming.”

Eskelin suggests looking for younger trees that are relatively far away from neighbor trees. When they are clustered in a group, Eskelin said, the individual trees can often appear fuller than they actually are.

“You don’t want to take a tree home and then realize there’s a big gap in it,” Eskelin said.

If the weather becomes problematic while out looking for a tree, Eskelin suggested marking the desired tree with a flag and coming back another day, rather than enduring the bad weather.

“You can always make two trips: one to find the tree and another to cut it down,” Eskelin said. “Remember the intention is to have fun. Do it to get some fresh air and spend some time with your family.”

In terms where to find the best trees, Eskelin said that the wooded areas along Funny River Road have been promising in the last few years, because the 2014 Funny River fire cleared the way for a lot of new growth and trees that have been able to grow in more open spaces.

These are the guidelines around tree cutting on the refuge, according to a Wednesday press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior:

Trees are free for personal use with a limit of one per household.

Trees cannot be taller than 20 feet.

Use only hand tools. Chainsaws are not permitted on the refuge.

Trees should be taken at least 150 feet away from a road, lake, stream, trail, campground or picnic area.

No tree-cutting is permitted at the refuge headquarters, visitor center or along Ski Hill Road.

People are asked to trim the stumps as close to the ground as possible for aesthetic purposes.

Call the Refuge Visitor Center at 907-262-7021 for more information.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Emerson Kapp, second-place winner of the 2023 Caring for the Kenai competition, shows participants how to use her project, the Kenai Peninsula Maze Board, during the Kenai River Festival on Friday, June 9, 2023, at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River Fair to offer education, fun for free on June 8

Kenai Watershed Forum’s annual summer event gets new name, renewed focus on education

A sign marks the entrance of Centennial Park and Campground on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tree planting event set for Centennial Park

Planting trees in the area is a crucial method for protecting and rehabilitating the streambank, organizers say

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 dead, 3 missing after boat capsizes near Seward

Alaska State Troopers were notified by the U.S. Coast Guard of an overturned vessel around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday

Erosion of the Kenai bluff near the Kenai Senior Center. (Photo by Aidan Curtin courtesy Scott Curtin)
Ribbon-cutting for bluff stabilization project set for June 10

The bluff has been eroding at a rate of around 3 feet per year

A bag of freshly dug razor clams is held aloft at the Ninilchik Beach in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Saturday, July 1, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
No clamming in Ninilchik or Clam Gulch this year

Adult abundance “well below” fishery thresholds on both beaches

Poppies are affixed to wreaths during a Memorial Day ceremony at Leif Hanson Memorial Park in Kenai on Monday. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Remembering the sacrifices of the fallen

Speakers ask community to be inspired through sacrifice of service members

A fallen tree reaches onto Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna, Alaska, as cars drive by on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Grants, borough to support HEA effort to mitigate dangerous trees

HEA will have permission to enter borough land and the borough’s right of way

Assembly President Brent Johnson asks questions of representatives of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District during a joint work session of the School Board and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough to enter contract for asbestos flooring abatement in 3 central peninsula schools

The work will be done at Kenai Central High, Kenai Alternative High and Sterling Elementary schools

Most Read