The 2021 Alaskan Youth Stewards’ TRAYLS season is already over halfway over! The crew (Ted, Susan, Kelly and Leif) have been busy working on all kinds of projects around natural resource monitoring, environmental restoration, cultural stewardship, and community service.
Community Garden Development
The community garden needed a little TLC, so the TRAYLS crew jumped in to help. They helped the Tlingit potatoes by pulling obnoxious weeds and adding fresh soil to the mix. They also cleaned up empty beds and the garden’s walkways to make it easier for gardeners to access their beds.
Moby the Mobile Greenhouse
TRAYLS gets to help with Moby the mobile greenhouse for another summer! Mark Browning, Hoonah City Schools teacher and gardening extraordinaire, led the crew in Moby improvements, including installing an automatic watering system, building new shelves, and getting new soil. We also water Moby throughout the week to make sure the produce stays healthy. We even got to share a meal with fresh produce from Moby to celebrate!
This year we partnered with entomologist Elizabeth (Liz) Graham with the USFS in Juneau for the first time! Liz studies insects- what kinds are around the Tongass as well as their impacts on surrounding ecosystems and natural resources that humans utilize. We’re looking for a few insects in particular: the hemlock sawfly, black headed budworm, and inch worm. All these insects damage trees and can inhibit tree growth, so it’s important to monitor their numbers. The good news is we conducted entomology surveys for Liz at three sites and didn’t find any! To conduct the survey, we shake branches of selected trees onto white beating sheets and identify any/all insects present. We will continue to conduct these surveys and hopefully we won’t find any of those pesky insects.
Traditional Food Harvesting and Processing: Beach Asparagus and Fireweed
One of HIA Environmental’s favorite summer projects is harvesting and processing traditional foods with the Huna Heritage Foundation (HHF)! This is our fourth year working with those at HHF to put up and share jars of traditional foods with the community. The TRAYLS crew and HHF went out to Burnt Point and Long Island where we harvested about ten gallons of beach asparagus and about two gallons of fireweed flowers. Then, we turned them into 72 jars of pickled beach asparagus and 54 jars of fireweed jam for the traditional food fair at the end of the summer! We will harvest more fireweed in addition to other traditional foods later in the season.
Stream Temperature Data Retrieval in Spasski Watershed (and shooting footage for an UNESCO film!)
We helped HIA Environmental’s IGAP Coordinator Jeromy retrieve stream temperature data from the Spasski watershed to continue monitoring salmon habitat and planning for future restoration projects. This is TRAYLS’ second year helping with the project by hunting for hidden water temperature loggers and uploading the data. However, this year, a videographer with UNESCO World Heritage Sites filmed the crew retrieving the data to include in an international film on communities adapting to climate change! Monitoring culturally significant resources such as salmon habitat is one important step we are taking to make sure local habitats can support enough salmon for our current and future community members.
Stream Restoration with the HNFP Crew in Spasski Watershed
HIA Environmental’s Hoonah Native Forest Partnership (HNFP) crew did more stream restoration this summer to create better salmon habitat for future runs, and the TRAYLS crew luckily got to help! Using hand tools like the grip hoist we helped fell large trees and move them, as well as other large woody debris, into the stream. This creates more diverse habitat and water flows, including shaded hiding places and pools with small substrates for spawning, that ultimately help salmon spawn and rear to increase their numbers. Trees also provide more easily accessible food (like insects) for salmon fry. It was already satisfying to watch large spruces and alders fall into the river, but even more so knowing it will help salmon populations!
More Work with the US Forest Service (USFS)
After a well deserved mid-season break (check out how Susan and Kelly spent their break here!), we jumped back into field work with the USFS! We got to go on the Spasski trail with Marlene Duvall and a landscape architect to plan future trail developments. The USFS is redoing the trail to make it more accessible for community members to get out and enjoy nature by installing wooden boardwalks, bridges, and adding gravel to the trail. About halfway through, the trail will become more challenging for those seeking more adventure and will end at Spasski bay. The TRAYLS crew was lucky to hang out at Spasski bay and enjoy the views!
We also continued our regular recreation site and trail maintenance at Freshwater Bay, False Bay, Wukukluk Trail, Suntaheen Fish Pass, Lower Suntaheen Trail, Bear Paw Lake Trail, and Pavlov Marsh Trail. To maintain these sites we lop overgrowth, remove invasive oxeye daisies, pick up trash, fix fire rings, clean tables, and do any other necessary maintenance. While at the Wukukluk trail we helped Marlene take photos and measurements along the trail to plan future trail development. One challenge we faced was removing the old fire pits at Bear Paw Lake Trail: heavy, old, rusted metal firepits needed to be dug up and removed so the USFS could replace them. We aren’t sure what was more of a challenge, digging them out of the ground without shovels or carrying them all the way up the trail to the truck! Thankfully we worked together and went at a good pace to get the job done safely.
The USFS needed a little help clearing one of their storage sites (what we called “the boneyard”) of all the young alder and spruce taking over. The boneyard houses extra gear like culverts that the USFS needs, and it was being overtaken by the young growth! We spent a couple days lopping, loading, and dumping all the young growth to make sure it couldn’t swallow up the boneyard completely.
On our last day with the USFS, we celebrated the season by having a halibut cookout! USFS staff, the HNFP crew and TRAYLS met at the Lower Suntaheen Trail site to eat fire roasted halibut, play games like hacky sack, and relax around the fire. It was an excellent way to spend our last day with the USFS! Thank you again Hoonah Ranger District for introducing natural resource management work with the TRAYLS youth and helping develop their skills!
Other Ongoing Work
The TRAYLS crew continued other ongoing work throughout the season as well. They helped finish up light penetration index surveys with HIA’s Environmental Coordinator Ian Johnson to assess salmon habitat, as well as continued taking water samples to monitor for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Additionally, we continued taking tree core samples for our partners at the College of Wooster and University of Alaska Fairbanks to look at how past climates impacted tree growth.
It’s certainly been a busy summer! The crew celebrated the halfway point by going on a camping trip at False Bay where we could relax and have some fun. They may not have slept much (or not at all, in one case!) and ate a little too much sugar, but it was a well deserved night of fun on and around the water.
The TRAYLS crew only has a few weeks left of the season, it’s so bittersweet! We’re all excited to continue working hard and having fun with each other for the time we have left.
Written by Arianna Lapke
Youth Engagement Coordinator and TRAYLS Lead