Juneau slated to get new cabins thanks to federal funding

John Muir Cabin. Sept. 16, 2022. (Photo by Yvonne Krumrey/KTOO)

Juneau’s public use cabin system is beloved — and often booked far in advance. Now, more cabins may be available soon for overnight stays.

The U.S. Forest Service just received $20 million for public cabins, said Regional Director of Recreation, Land and Minerals James King. 

“Alaska did very, very well,” he said. “We’ve got $14.4 million of that $20 million to go towards either repairing, restoring or constructing new cabins. 

The money is part of the federal infrastructure bill that passed last year. 

There are currently about a dozen public cabins accessible from Juneau’s road system. Some are owned and maintained by the state, some by the Forest Service and others by the City and Borough of Juneau.

Now, the Forest Service is proposing several new cabins in Juneau, out of 50 proposed cabins statewide. 

Most of the existing cabins are found along trails that take several miles to hike to, and King said a goal is to build cabins that are more accessible for people who can’t necessarily hike out to one. 

“A big emphasis of this money for us with the new ones is to put these cabins where the demand exists,” King said. “For a lot of that, it’s near communities.”

The new proposals vary in purpose: some are right by the Mendenhall Glacier and would be accessible by car; another along Montana Creek creates a cabin “thru-hike” opportunity, where folks can hike from cabin to cabin to traverse a longer trail in Juneau.

These ideas are getting a lot of feedback.

“We’re really happy with the response,” he said said. “We’ve received over 500 comments on cabin locations.”

Ryan O’Shaughnessy leads Juneau’s trail maintenance nonprofit, Trail Mix, Inc. He says that part of their partnership with the city is to support new cabin projects. 

“We really like to think of ourselves as a tool in the toolbox for land managers for recreation projects, so we’re super happy to help build cabins or happy to help build trails to cabins, clearing land for cabins, any and all,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We’re very supportive of these projects.”

Proposition 2 on Juneau’s local ballot will also help fund more cabins, O’Shaughnessy said. That measure is poised to pass once the city certifies election results later this week.

All the cabin proposal projects can be explored on an interactive map, and comments for the new Forest Service cabins can be made until Oct. 31. King said some plans were already in the works prior to the new federal funding, which means new cabins could be available as soon as next summer. He hopes others will be constructed in the next four years. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated that the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region had received $20 million for new public use cabins. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service as a whole received that money. 

Yvonne Krumrey

Local News Reporter, KTOO

Juneau is built on hidden and assumed layers of power and access, influencing how we interact with identity, with the law and with each other. I bring you stories of the gaps in access to power, and those who are working to close those gaps.

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