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Thread: Cottonwood Creek Bridge Rebuilding and trail hardning

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    Member akblackdawg's Avatar
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    Default Cottonwood Creek Bridge Rebuilding and trail hardning

    http://us.mc1621.mail.yahoo.com/mc/w...jsrand=5760413

    This is from Joe Meehan, Biologist for the hayflats and other refuge areas. There is money available for rebuilding the cottonwood creek bridge. There are significant problems with the trail past the bridge and damage to it due to ATV traffic. They are trying to get money for trail improvement so that further damage will not result. Please read and study this if you use that area and have a interest in that area. I have never been past the bridge but will be willing to help keep it open to hunting and to keep access available for all. Please open this and read and post your ideas and comments. Bud
    Last edited by LuJon; 04-05-2012 at 09:16.
    Wasilla

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    So are there any groups keying into the Atv damage and looking to redesign the access plan?
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    Sorry Bud, couldn't read your link.

    I would be happy to help build a new bridge down there. I live 2 minutes down the road so I can stop by anytime after work or on weekends. If they are going to improve the trail, they only need to go out to the first 2 miles. That is the soft swampy muck, that stops most guys from going out. It would proabably be easier to improve the trail if they move it over a little and get off the deep holes out there. They should also keep in mind that the marsh floods once a month due to the big tides. So they should try to work around this.

    I wonder if they harden the trail if they would be willing to allow side by sides out there. I saw more damage out there last year after they cracked down on them. I believe this was due to more machines going out vs less because guys could double up on one machine.
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
    "Swans are a gift" -DucksandDogs
    I am a shoveler's worst nightmare!

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    Pretty sure SxS are covered (when applicable) by weight I.e. "nothing over 1100lbs.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    Member duckslayer56's Avatar
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    The limit is 1,000 I think, but if they harden the trail do they still need to have a weight restriction?
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
    "Swans are a gift" -DucksandDogs
    I am a shoveler's worst nightmare!

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    They don't let sxs go regardless of weight.
    It's not skybusting if you fold em'.

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    Bud, you need to cut and past the contents of that email message to a post on this thread. We don't have access to your personal email account or what ever that Yahoo website is.

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    Default Intro

    Issue StatementCottonwood Creek Bridge & TrailPalmer Hay Flats State Game RefugeAlaska Department of Fish and Game
    Summary:
    The Cottonwood Creek area of the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge protectswetlands habitats important to many species of fish and wildlife. The area also providesrecreational opportunities for an assortment of users. Limited facilities include an approximately7 mile-long wetlands trail used by a variety of refuge visitors including fall waterfowl huntersaccessing the area via ATV. Habitat impacts from ATV traffic have long concerned refugemanagers. Additionally, the single light-duty pedestrian and ATV bridge over CottonwoodCreek has recently been condemned and is no longer safe for public use. Funds have beensecured to replace the condemned bridge; however, issues related to habitat impacts from ATVuse along the trail remain. While solutions involve logistical and financial challenges, theDepartment seeks a solution to ensure continued access while maintaining productive wildlifehabitats.
    Background:
    The Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge encompasses approximately 45 squaremiles of freshwater, brackish and saltwater wetlands; forest; lakes; tidal sloughs and mudflats inUpper Cook Inlet. The refuge was established to “protect and preserve the natural habitat andgame populations” of the area (AS 16.20.020) and it provides importation habitat for tens-ofthousandsof migratory waterbirds including ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds and sandhill cranes.It also provides habitat for large numbers of muskrats, moose, bears and other wildlife; and forfive species of Pacific salmon and other fish. The refuge is road accessible and is located inclose proximity to over half of Alaska’s population. The refuge provides varied opportunities foroutdoor activities and is popular for fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, photography,nature study, hiking, skiing, canoeing, boating and other activities.The Cottonwood Creek site provides access to one of the primary freshwater wetland complexesin the refuge and encompasses approximately ten square miles of mostly open water habitat.Facilities at the site include an access road, several parking areas, a vault toilet, uplands hikingtrails, a covered overlook shelter, interpretive panels, a bridge over Cottonwood Creek and the 7-mile long wetlands trail. The wetlands trail is open year-round for non-motorized access, forwinter snow machining when snow conditions allow, and for ATV traffic only during the fallwaterfowl hunting period. The bridge is also used by thousands of pedestrians engaged in sportfishing activity during the summer salmon fishery and by many other refuge users.The wetlands trail provides access to a large portion of the Cottonwood Creek wetland complex.While the trail originates outside the legislative boundary of the refuge, it traversesapproximately 1.5 miles of state land managed by the Department consistent with the purposesof the refuge (through an Interagency Land Management Assignment (ILMA) and deededmanagement rights with the Department of Natural Resources). It then enters the refuge for theremaining 5.5 miles.While generally prohibited within state wildlife refuges (5 AAC 95.420(a)(7)), refuge regulationsallow for the seasonal off-road use of ATVs in a limited corridor in the Cottonwood Creek areaunless the commissioner “determines that use of the corridor is detrimental to the protection ofrefuge resources” (5 AAC 95.505(1)(A)(ii)). The refuge management plan recognizes the publicbenefits for allowing limited ATV use in the refuge but also guides the department to addresshabitat impacts.The trail at Cottonwood Creek predates establishment of the refuge (1975) but like many areas inthe state, use by ATVs has increased in recent decades. Use of the trail corridor by ATVs ismanaged through the issuance of a General Permit and field management has consisted ofopening and closing of a gate on the bridge that allows ATV access to the trail, postingregulatory signs, and marking the trail corridor.As long ago as the early 1980s, refuge managers expressed concern about the habitat impacts thistrail had on the refuge wetlands; however, other than some limited field testing of trail hardeningtechniques in the late 1990’s (Higgins 2002), little has been done to address these impacts. Theimpacts can be categorized as direct habitat impacts and, the more widespread, secondaryimpacts resulting from changing water flow patterns. Direct impacts include vegetation damagesuch as root disturbance, rutting, channeling runoff and changes in vegetation, all of which affectwetlands habitats (see attached images). The potential secondary impacts are more significantand widespread, and include erosion and perhaps large scale drainage of the freshwater wetlandcomplex by facilitating the spread of tidal gut erosion and conversion to less productive mudflats(see attached images). Both the direct and secondary impacts are likely exacerbated by theillegal off-trail use of ATVs and violations of other General Permit conditions, which arecommon.A review of historic aerial photos shows that tide gut erosion has resulted in the drainage ofapproximately 0.5 square miles of open water wetlands habitat (see attached aerial images);however, it is unknown exactly what role use of the trail had in this process (Ravens 2009 andRice 2008). Likewise, it is unknown what role continued use of the trail by ATVs may have intide gut erosion but if this erosion continues (which it may regardless of ATV traffic), it couldresult in the drainage of part or all of this important wetland area. While it’s not possible toestimate the rate at which future tide gut erosion will continue, if the historic rate of 242.7feet/year continues, it could drain the next small portion of the Cottonwood Creek wetlandswithin one or two years.In addition to these habitat impacts, other management concerns include the status of the onlyaccess to the trail via a light-duty clear span bridge which has recently been condemned and is nolonger safe for public use (State Parks Report, 2011). Corrosion and vandalism havecompromised the structural integrity of the bridge and it will not be open to any use (pedestrianor ATV) starting in 2012. The Department is currently developing plans to replace the bridgewith existing refuge access funds.
    Trail/Bridge Options:
    While the condemned access bridge will be replaced with existing fundsand will allow continued pedestrian access to the creek and trail, the Department is looking atseveral options to address the habitat impacts of ATV use on the trail. These range from closureof the trail to ATVs, limiting trail use by ATVs, hardening the existing trail within or near itscurrent alignment, providing an alternate access site for ATV traffic, and rerouting the trail awayfrom the most sensitive habitat areas.
    Suggested course of action:
    The Cottonwood Creek access bridge will be replaced usingexisting funds. Of the options being assessed to address the habitat concerns, the Department isrecommending portions of the trail be hardened while other portions be rerouted away from themost sensitive areas including the area subject to tide gut erosion. Rerouting and hardening thetrail to avoid this area may require crossing the upper/mid reach of the tide gut via an additionalbridge (see attached Trail Reroute images). While an engineering assessment of this proposal isyet to be completed, if feasible we are confident it will protect the wetlands and other refugeresources consistent with our mandates in the refuge’s enabling legislation and applicableregulations (e.g. 5AAC95.505(1)(A)(ii)) while providing continued access to the refuge.
    Budgets:
    The cost to install two new bridges and harden the wettest sections of the trail has beenestimated at $300K. The Department currently has $100K (CIP and Federal Aid funding) toreplace the condemned bridge, which we hope to do during late summer 2012. We are currentlyseeking the additional $200K to reroute the trail including the potential installation of a secondbridge. Once this project is completed, user education and an increased law enforcementpresence will be needed so that refuge resources are conserved while providing continuedtraditional access to the refuge.
    Citations:
    Higgins, Charlotte 2002. Efficacy of Trail-Hardening Treatments in Repairing Areas Damagedby Off-Road Vehicles at the Palmer Hay Flats Game Refuge. Alaska Pacific University,Anchorage, AK. 88pp.Ravens, Thomas M. 2009. Letter to Joe Meehan, Alaska Department of Fish and Game datedFebruary 17, 2009. University of Alaska Anchorage, School of Engineering. 1pp.Rice, William 2008. Technical Memorandum: Palmer Hayflats Assessment of Potential ATVImpacts Near the Mouth of Cottonwood Creek. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,Anchorage, AK. 5pp.Thomas, Cassie 2008. Cottonwood Creek Trail Options. National Park Service; Rivers, Trailsand Conservation Assistance Program. Anchorage, AK. 4pp.Vesotski, Jake 2012. Cottonwood Creek Bridge Assessment. Memorandum dated January 5,2012. Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and OutdoorRecreation, Design and Construction Section. Anchorage, AK. 4pp.
    Attachments:
    Photos showing primary impacts.Photos showing tide gut erosion.Aerial photos.Trail Reroute OptionsCitations (x4, Higgins 2002 excluded).Prepared April 2012 by:Joe Meehan, ADF&G, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Anchorage, AK
    Comments or additional suggestions can be sent to: joe.meehan@alaska.gov
    Go Big Red!

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    Hey gang, I don't know if it's possible to upload documents to this site or not. I pasted the first part of the letter above but this is a 32 page document and when I upload it to the system it is greater than the maximum MB allowable on the site. If anybody wants a full copy of the letter, throw your email up in this thread or PM me and I'll forward. The pictures and satellite imagery over time are not complimentary to the goals of the refuge. Hopefully a balance can be found and atv access can continue while still protecting the freshwater habitats that draw us to that area for waterfowling in the first place.
    Go Big Red!

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    Thank you PG, I am offering the same thing, will email it to anybody who sends me their email. The letter shown below posted by PG is only a small part of it but gives a good idea of what it is all about. They have $100,000 to build the bridge with, and want a hardened trail to go out 4 miles, and want to bypass some of the low areas. I may not be back on here until this eveining. I am surprised, I can click on the link and open it on here, thought anybody could also, guess not. Bud
    Wasilla

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    Member Matt's Avatar
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    What's wrong with the current bridge that is down on the flats at cottonwood creek?

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    if the bridge is improved i hope they enforce the corridor restrictions better. i sure bugs me to see 4 wheeler destroyed marsh 1000' from the edge. i would like to see forfiet of wheeler and weapon for violations.

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    Default Alternatives

    In the full document ADFG proposes three different options, one which exludes ATVs from crossing Cottonwood Creek. When priveleges are taken advantage of, sometimes they go away. Hopefully someone smarter than me can brainstorm and think of a way to harden the trail so folks don't start looking for ways around the soft spots and the area can rehab itself. I've never been across that bridge when it wasn't full winter and on foot so I don't speak from experience trying to get guys and gear in for hunting but it does seem evident that status quo isn't an alternative. Any engineer type folks out there?
    Go Big Red!

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    Their prefered method for hardening the trail is to fill the deeper holes then place plastic geo-mesh and then fill that in to provide a stable non-squishable driving surface. That is the best option with the best end product.

    The problem is just the cost of the materials, equipment, and labor. Geo grid is not cheap and neither is hauled gravel fill. Equipment to transport it out and place it. It all costs money. And they need to do miles of trail not just the few mud pits. The more donated labor, materials and equipment the lower the cost.

    To handle the tide swings and sheet flooding they need to study the topopgraphy and determine collection points for where to place culverts. They would not want the trail to end up becoming a dike and causing additional erosion or constant incised break throughs.

    Building an engineered dirt road in a swamp is many dollars a linear foot. $100,000 might get them 100 feet if it was all contracted out. That would not even be one mud pit.

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    joe.meehan@alaska.gov

    The above is Joe Meehan's email, you can email him directly for copies of the proposed plan and information.
    Wasilla

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    That geo mesh is pretty expensive, I'm thinking we might do something simular with 6' chain link fencing material rolls, much cheaper and will last quite a few years, then put another layer on top of it. Yea, mud would come though it but there would be a bottom and should be traction for the 4 wheelers. Just a thought. Bud
    Wasilla

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    Quote Originally Posted by akblackdawg View Post
    That geo mesh is pretty expensive, I'm thinking we might do something simular with 6' chain link fencing material rolls,
    Been there and it was an absolute failure. It works for two to three trips, but then cuts down into the material and if the material is wet it just sinks and keeps sinking with each pass of the vehicles. So if the goal is only a dozen to two dozen round trips then it will work, but if the goal is years of use it is a waste of time.

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    What about sinking some old telephone poles out there, and maybe attach some chainlink fence to them to give an even surface with some traction. That would eliminate the need to raise the trail, and allow the marsh to naturally drain in it's drainage areas. In the areas that are deep you could put some gravel down below the poles to make a bottom. Then run markers on each side of the trail so people can find it in the water. I would think it would be cheaper than miles and miles of geo-block, and you wouldn't need to fill the whole area with gravel.
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
    "Swans are a gift" -DucksandDogs
    I am a shoveler's worst nightmare!

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    Historically the state has railed against any real attempts to harden trails without going through their "process". The end result of the "process" is generally a bunch of paperwork showing a huge dollar figure to actually do any work then nothing is done... It seems that the system is somewhat against "volunteer labor" as they always seem to want a engineered and contracted solution. Funny that most of the trails in AK were built by miners with zero studies, basic equipment and a boat load of determination yet many of them are still there and being used all these years later.

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    Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats formed and came forward seven years ago to work with ADF&G in doing on-the-ground volunteer labor to do everything you see today at Reflections Lake and Cottonwood Creek with limited volunteers. I'm sure they would welcome help from anyone to do a lot more of what has needed to be done for decades. When they formed, the governor/legislative budget allocation for CIP was nil, and operating - for 25 refuges in southcentral - was $15k per year. Only last year, with considerable advocacy, did the refuge program receive admin and legislative attention with CIP funding. We're all way overdue to connect the dots and see where the lapse is in funding management, maintenance and enforcement on our public lands. Time to stop complaining and step up to the plate. This conversation is a good start.

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