Over the past year, major improvements have been made to the Battery Point Trail in Haines. Once a muddy, root-laden path, the one-mile route is now hard-packed and topped with gravel, making access easier for locals and visitors alike.
It’s no secret to locals that the trail tucked at the end of Beach Road is the perfect place for an afternoon dog walk, or a quick lunch-time jog. But, now, after months of work, that route is safer and more manageable.
“We’re at the Battery Point trail head in Chilkat State Park, says Travis Russell, the Ranger for State Parks in Haines.
On a recent sunny afternoon I took at stroll down the popular trail. It snakes through the forest with several gentle slopes and easy creek crossings. It’s the perfect little hike for those who don’t want to venture too far from town.
“Last year we had a Recreational Trails Program grant and that allowed us to do the work that we completed last year. Basically what we did was we flew in gravel and then my two techs, Dallas Anderson and Andrew Althauser, were the two that did the bulk of the work out here,” says Russell.
In case you missed that, Russell says the gravel was flown in. A helicopter was contracted through Temsco in Skagway and large slings were used to drop gravel in strategic spots along the trail.
“Everybody asks, ‘Okay, isn’t that an expensive way to build a trail?’ and yes, it is a very expensive way to build a trail. But, the other option, using a mechanical wheelbarrow, means that every corner you take on that skid-steer, you’re pushing your material out further so you’re going use twice as much material to build the same amount of trail. Really, it was almost a zero-sum gain as far as cost.”
The $50,000 federal grant paid for materials and labor to improve most of the one-mile trail. Upgrades included more gravel over the muddy spots, bridges, steps and switchbacks. This year, the local Parks office got another grant worth around $28,000 to finish off the job. That’ll include more trail work, viewing benches and some signs where the trail forks.
“It makes it nice for people who just want a brief walk. Dog walkers love it, I’ve noticed. And people of all ages seem to really enjoy the trail.”
If you’ve been on the path recently, you might have noticed black boxes tied to trees at the trail head. Those are a motion-activated counter and a game camera, so State Parks has an idea of just how many people enjoy it. Russell says, the last monthly count was higher than anticipated.
“Last month, we had 1,118 visitors on the trail.”
That’s an increase of about 400 people over March. And, he says, the numbers are only going to go up as summer approaches.
The trail enhancements help to alleviate erosion and impacts to root systems as more and more people head into the woods. The first cruise ship is scheduled to pull into the Port Chilkoot Dock on May 18, and Russell says, Battery Point will be ready and waiting for visitors.