Should Katmai National Park Replace Its Swikshak Patrol "Cabin"? One Picture Should Answer That Question
Every now and then a project proposed by the National Park Service stands out. That certainly seems to be the case of the proposal from Katmai National Park and Preserve to replace a plywood box long used as the backcountry patrol cabin on the coast of Shelikof Strait with a more weather-proof and comfortable facility.
Just look at the existing "cabin," which dates to 1971 when the Alaska Fish and Game Department built the 10-foot-by-12-foot shelter for use as a razor clam research facility, according to park officials.
The cabin originally contained two bunks, shelving, a wood stove, and a food storage barrel. Adjacent to the cabin was a 12’ x 7.5’ sauna and an outhouse (both structures have since collapsed and are no longer in use). The cabin served as an ADF&G research facility until 1975. Beginning as early as 1983, the NPS began using the patrol cabin as a shelter for backcountry patrols. Over the last 25 years, the cabin has continued to provide NPS staff a base camp while conducting coastal patrols along the northern half of the Katmai coast between Cape Douglas and Hallo Bay during the summer months when commercially guided sport fishing and bear viewing activities are at their highest levels. During this time period, the cabin has steadily deteriorated due to a combination of the types of building materials used to construct the cabin (plywood with tar paper roofing), harsh coastal weather conditions, and occasional damage caused by brown bears and other wildlife. Examples of this deterioration include a leaking roof, wood rot on the ceiling and floor, gaps and holes on the wall, and intermittently working oil heater and propane cooking stove. Due to this deterioration, the NPS determined that the cabin was no longer safe to occupy. Backcountry rangers continue to use the area adjacent to the cabin as a base camp by setting up tents and a temporary electric perimeter fence for bear protection.
Under the park's current proposal, which you can comment on through March 3, the preferred solution to this dilapidated structure is to raze it and construct a 20-foot-by-12-foot cabin from a kit. A new outhouse also would be built, under this proposal, and a rain catchment system would be constructed to provide water for the cabin.
The interior of the cabin would be designed and constructed to accommodate two people for extended occupation. The cabin would be elevated above the ground between approximately 18” and 24” on pilings, allowing for the temporary storage of boats, kayaks, and other large items.
Anti-reflective photo-voltaic solar panels would be installed on the cabin roof to power a small low-wattage battery system. The power would be used for light bulbs and to charge NPS radios and other portable equipment. A radio antenna would be installed and extend between 6’ and 8’ above the roof. A ladder and small platform would be installed on the rear of the cabin to enable park staff to set up and remove the solar panel(s) and radio antenna, when needed.
Since the nearest freshwater source is located approximately 1/2 mile north of the cabin on the north shore of Swikshak Lagoon, a 50 gallon rainwater cistern would be installed under or immediately adjacent to the cabin. Rainwater would be collected from the roof (approximately 400 sq ft of surface area) and channeled to the cistern through a system of gutters and pipes. A hand operated pump would provide water to a kitchen sink.
A burner propane stove and oven would be installed in the cabin for cooking. A propane tank shelter box would be constructed on the exterior of the cabin to protect gas lines and prevent wildlife damage. The cabin would be equipped with a battery powered smoke detector and fire extinguisher. A steel storage box would be installed immediately adjacent to the cabin for fuel and boat motor storage.
Why the need to construct a backcountry patrol cabin next to Swikshak Lagoon? For starters, so rangers can "protect and manage the extensive Katmai coast during the summer months when visitation is at its highest levels," note park officials, and so those rangers will have a "safe and durable hard-sided shelter for protection against inclement weather and occasional undesirable wildlife encounters."
If approved and funded, the project could begin this summer.
To view or comment on the EA, head over to this site. You also can send your comments to Daniel Noon, Chief of Environmental Planning, Katmai National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 7, King Salmon, AK 99613-0007.