The project has been in the works for the past few years. Fort Abercrombie is a popular hiking destination for cruise ship passengers, and the current road is difficult to use for the large buses that bring tourists to the park.
“The congestion issue at Miller Point is large,” said Jack Ransom, Kodiak area ranger for Alaska State Parks. “The lack of parking makes it difficult to turn around. It’s pretty tight.”
The number of tourists from cruise ships will decrease next year due to Holland America’s decision to cut Kodiak from its itinerary, but the state parks department plans to go forward with the project.
“Right now it takes a bus five points to make that turn,” project manager Jessica Miranda said. “It is still necessary for safety reasons. We need to accommodate whether it’s one bus or 1,000.”
During community meetings in 2009 and 2010, early arguments against the renovation involved the size of the turnaround and the number of trees that would have to be cut down.
“I objected to the removal of all the trees,” said Kodiak resident Susan Oliver, who attended the meetings in 2010 and still objects to the project. “We have so few cruise ships come here. It’s all for the convenience of the bus company.”
The state parks department created a second concept plan in 2010 that was more acceptable to community members. The design team decreased the size of the turnaround from eight-tenths of an acre to around two-tenths of an acre.
“Through public meetings we listened and substantially decreased the number of trees being cut down,” said Mike Seidl, chief of design and construction for Alaska State Parks.
The redesigned plans estimate only 37 trees will be cut down. The original plan eliminated 60. The trees that are cut down will be reused in a separate park project to build either a host facility or pavilion.
The new turnaround will eliminate five camping spots, but the Alaska State Parks department will rebuild them in another location.
“We’ve added a fairly expensive five-unit campsite coming off of that lower road,” Seidl said.
The five new campsites will be near the Ram Site.
Construction at Fort Abercrombie will shut down for several days during the cross country season, to ensure safety for the runners.
“The biggest concern was with the local athletics department, which has cross country meets out there,” Ransom said.
The bid for construction will be awarded on May 22, and work is scheduled to begin around Aug. 15.
The Alaska State Parks Department hopes to have the construction completed by Nov. 9, pending good weather conditions.