USFS proposes fee increase for cabins on Tongass, Chugach

Campers arrive at the Shakes Slough U.S. Forest Service cabin on the Tongass National Forest. (Katarina Sostaric/KSTK)
Campers arrive at the Shakes Slough U.S. Forest Service cabin on the Tongass National Forest. (Katarina Sostaric/KSTK)

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing increases to cabin rental fees on Alaska’s national forests. Cabin prices have been the same since the 1990s, and now some fees could more than double over the next three years.

Cabin rental fees on the Tongass and Chugach National Forests have been between $25 and $45 for the last 20 years. The Forest Service is proposing to increase those fees to a range of $30 to $100 a night.

Alaska Recreation Program Lead Jeff Miller said fee increases would help the Forest Service keep its 184 cabins in shape.

“Maintaining heavily used and remote cabins is expensive, and costs continue to rise,” Miller said. “We’re all aware of that. And the fee revenue, or the rental revenue, is used for renovations, repairs, materials, the maintenance and cleaning of outhouses, firewood and fuel, salary for staff working on the cabins, and our travel expenses related to how we get to our program.”

On the Tongass, cabins near Ketchikan and Juneau would see some of the biggest fee increases. Rental fees there would more than double to $60 to $75 a night during the summer. Other Tongass communities will see smaller price increases.

On the Chugach, all cabins would increase to $60 or $75 a night from the current price of $35 or $45. Two especially popular cabins, the Martin Lake and Nellie Martin River cabins, would jump to $100 a night. The price differences between cabins are based on demand, amenities and maintenance.

Changes would be phased in over three years, with rates typically lower during the winter.

James Benedict lives in Anchorage and stays at Forest Service cabins on Prince William Sound. He said with the price increase, staying at his favorite cabins a few times a year would still be worth it.

“We do a lot out there. We shrimp, hunt and fish. And so it would be for us,” Benedict said. “But if it goes up to $60, $70 a night it, would definitely be restrictive for a lot of people. Because you’re already spending $200 to $300 on fuel to get out there. And now if you’re staying for a week, you’re adding a decent amount more to your trip.”

Benedict said he would like to see the revenue from the increased fees go toward improving cabin maintenance, and possibly building more cabins on the Chugach.

Laura Jackson of Ketchikan said she would continue to use Forest Service cabins, too. She said cabin maintenance has really declined in some areas, and she hopes to see better facilities and more firewood as a result of the fee changes.

The Forest Service is taking public comments on the proposed changes through Nov. 30.

Click here to view the full list of proposed changes to cabin rental fees.

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