By Alison Rein
Special to the Turnagain Times
A grant to improve the Glacier Creek Hand Tram was received from a U.S. Forest Service program authorized by the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Other grants awarded for the Girdwood area include repairs to the Crow Creek Bridge (completed last summer), construction of connector trails between Winner Creek Trail and the Nordic Trails, and repairs to the Nordic Trails.
The hand tram is a major attraction for people recreating in Girdwood. The tram provides a unique way to cross over Glacier creek’s swift current, and is part of a 7-mile loop trail in the Girdwood valley. The tram has been closed since November 2011 to address safety concerns raised by the Municipality of Anchorage after a child fell from the eastern terminal of the tram last summer. An engineer from Aerial Engineering, Inc. performed an inspection and provided recommendations for the safety and operational improvements.
First, railings and a safety net will be installed at each terminal to address fall hazards. Additionally, guards will be installed around the sheaves where the haul rope enters the sheaves to minimize the hazard of a person’s hand(s) reaching the rope/sheave interface and getting pinched.
Second, rope guides will be installed to keep the haul rope on the sheaves. The rope can start bouncing when more than two people are pulling on the haul rope, resulting in it falling off the upper sheave and stranding the cart.
Other improvements include installing signs that describe proper operating procedures at each terminal and replacing the cart with one that is lighter and has a more durable gate.
Dave Wilson has been hired as a project manager to insure timely and coordinated effort for these improvements. Dave has been involved with the tram since its inception; his knowledge and licensing makes him uniquely qualified to make this project a success. The Trails Committee is grateful that Dave is available to help with this effort.
The Hand Tram will remain closed until the railings have been installed, sometime in late spring or early summer. Other improvements may require periodic closures of the tram.
All hand tram and winner gorge bridge closures will be posted at the Winner Gorge Trailhead and the trailhead near the Alyeska Resort’s Aerial Tram. Call Kyle Kelley, Girdwood Parks and Recreation contact at 343-8374 or the Forest Service Glacier Ranger District office in Girdwood at 783-3242 for current status of the hand tram or bridge projects.
If you’re still inclined to hike out to the Tram, the Forest Service has plowed Winner Creek Gorge Trailhead parking near Crow Creek Mine, but remember, there’s no state maintenance on Crow Creek Road until June 1.