Forest Service says Dan Moller cabin needs rebuilding
Agency plans to close building to
the public if it isn't fixed in 2009
The U.S. Forest Service wants to tear down and rebuild the Dan Moller cabin on Douglas Island.
Built in 1936 with local logs by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the 16-foot-by-18-foot cabin is one of Juneau's best loved and most used for decades. But the Forest Service has a lot of reasons to start fresh.
Most important: "It's the rot," said Ed Grossman, recreation program manager of the Forest Service Juneau Ranger District. "We're dealing with basically what is going to be a structural failure."
The Forest Service plans to close the cabin to the public if it isn't fixed in 2009.
With the usual horizontal-log design used in these parts, when the inevitable moisture brings the inevitable rot, you can replace the lowest logs. But Dan Moller's logs run vertically. And while they've been replaced before, they're rotting again.
Aside from the vertical log problem, heavy snow piles up against the walls. The melt keeps the logs wet all winter, and the weight of the snow pushes the walls off level and breaks rafters and windows. The walls are poorly insulated. Rodents run in and out. A disabled-accessible outhouse was built in 2007, but it needs a walkway.
The cabin has been fixed up several times since the Forest Service acquired it in 1983.
At that time, it was in bad shape. That year, Taku Conservation Society, Juneau Ski Club and Vietnam Veterans of America volunteers took out the rotted bottom sections of the vertical log walls and replaced them with creosote-treated pier pilings, and put on a new roof, floor and windows. In 1990, the cabin got a porch, and in 1999, it got a new concrete foundation, floor and other fixes.
Grossman said the Forest Service recognizes the cabin's long history and is planning to put up a historical display in the rebuilt cabin.
"But in our opinion, it's not worth putting huge amounts of money into something that's not well designed for the site," he said.
The cabin has been on the Forest Service's capital-improvements list for some time, and now the agency says it has about $250,000 for the rebuild.
That's to cover the entire project, including demolition and rebuild labor, the materials, helicopter time, landscape architecture and the special engineering necessary to prepare the bid package, Grossman said.
The new cabin would be a standard Forest Service design: 16 feet by 20 feet, built of rot-resistant cedar. It would be accessible to the disabled with a walkway to the outhouse and have horizontal log walls, an insulated roof, a second-floor loft with a staircase, a porch, a second-floor deck, thermo-pane windows and two main-floor doors. It would sleep up to 12 people.
The new cabin would be rotated 90 degrees partly to avoid the heavy snow loads that accumulate on the current cabin, and it would be better designed to shed snow.
The Forest Service is anticipating some resistance and lots of opinions on the cabin.
Mary Lou King, author of "90 Short Walks in Juneau" and a resident since 1958, said she felt strongly that the cabin should not be demolished and rebuilt. King says there aren't many examples of buildings from that era.
"When I first came here, that was the only ski area," said King, who warmed herself in it on many a day. "There were always people in it. Particularly people who aren't young anymore."
"I think they should fix it. I really think it would be sad to tear it down," she said.
Bob Janes Sr., a longtime Juneau outdoorsman, said he had a lot of good memories from the cabin, but he understood the Forest Service's need to provide public safety. Janes worked for the agency for 38 years.
"Logs decay over the years," he said. "You can't expect them to be there forever. ... It'd be nice to see the same thing go back in, but is it very practical?"
Juneau Ranger District is beginning
an environmental assessment of the
new cabin proposal. Public comments
may be submitted until Jan. 9 to
Grossman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include suggestions, concerns and
the specific rationale for the