At low tide Thursday morning, Kevin Murphy, Chief Ranger for Southeast Area State Parks, piloted a boat out of Amalga Harbor, making sure to avoid a barely-visible rock on his way into Favorite Channel. His destination: a new Public Use Cabin on Shelter Island.
The Salamander PUC — a 12-by-16 foot cabin set in the treeline of Halibut Cove on the east side of Shelter Island — is available for booking on the Alaska State Parks website starting July 1. Murphy believes its location, a straight shot across Favorite Channel from Amalga Harbor, will make it a popular destination for kayakers, deer hunters and fishermen.
“I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people asking ‘When is it going to be ready, when is it going to be ready?’” Murphy said. “I think with this location, it’s going to be a really popular spot.”
As Murphy set anchor at Halibut Cove, it was easy to see his point: Up a wide beach and about 100 yards from the water, the Salamander PUC offers 180 degree views from the backside of Mount McGinnis to Lion’s Head mountain north of Berners Bay. Campers can see both Herbert and Eagle glaciers from the beach, which is wide enough at low tide to host a softball game.
Salamander is built from yellow cedar and spruce lumber from Hoonah’s Icy Strait Lumber and Milling Co.; it sleeps eight, features oil and wood stoves, an outhouse and two fire rings. A muskeg-fed creek runs along its south side.
Salamander is the third PUC on Shelter Island and the 12th in the Juneau area. The cabin is located on a well-used deer hunting camp and was fundraised, built and donated by Territorial Sportsman, a volunteer organization promoting outdoor recreation in Southeast.
Territorial Sportsman’s Jack Manning led the volunteer crew that built the cabin, which was put up in several weekends during the last two summers.
“Territorial Sportsman has a long history of building cabins,” Manning said. “It generally takes us about two summers. We get a crew of about 30-35 people out there; people get to exercise their building bug. It’s a lot of fun and once we get a rhythm going it goes up in about three weekends.”
Manning and crew built a secondary, wall-less “first come, first serve” shelter about 50 yards north of the cabin. The idea behind the shelter is to encourage multiple groups to use the cove.
“People pull up in a skiff and see the cabin and think they can’t camp there,” Manning said. “We want multiple groups to be able to camp there; when you rent the cabin, you’re not renting the cove.”
Murphy said Territorial Sportsman has been instrumental to the PUC system in Juneau; Salamander is the sixth cabin built under the collaboration (other cabin sights include: Camping Cove, Taku Harbor, St. James Bay, Handtrollers Cove and Lincoln Island).
Once the cabins go up, they are maintained and rented by Alaska State Parks. Murphy and Southeast State Parks Chief of Maintenance Doug Drexel noted that they are happy to have a group like Territorial Sportsman lobbying for public use cabins at the capital.
“We’re in the recreation business, so when we’re trying to fund schools and hospitals, we’re pretty far down the list,” Murphy said. “I am amazed we’ve been able to do as well as we have.”
Manning agreed. “It started with Bill Hudson, who did a lot of work for us. A lot of credit goes to Cathy Munoz and the Juneau legislative delegation for the fundraising and grants from the state,” Manning said.
At $45 a night, PUCs bring in a significant amount of money for the State Parks. After recent closures of a Sitka and Valdez offices, Murphy said the revenue from cabin rentals is not a drop in the bucket.
“They certainly bring in more money than a campground. It helps a little bit when we can say this is a good capital investment,” Murphy said.
Manning, who’s planning his next cabin build at Couverden Island in the western entrance of Lynn Canal, said the outdoors-going public has proved the need for PUCs.
“Just try to rent one,” Manning said. “The day we’re done with them they’re booked.”
Volunteer at Territorial Sportsman by visiting their website at: http://territorialsportsmen.org/.
Public Use Cabins can be reserved at: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/southeast/seindex.htm