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Notorious for having bikes chained along its railway, the Sitka Sound Science center is upgrading its parking for those traveling on wheels. The Construction Tech class at Sitka High, under the instruction of Randy Hughey, is building a bike shelter for the Science center made of young growth Sitka spruce and old growth red cedar from Prince of Wales Island. The 6,000 board feet of this Alaskan wood was milled by Mel Cooke of Last Chance Enterprises out of Thorne Bay. From Cooke's perspective, the logs are very easy to work with – very symmetrical, very little taper, and mostly comes out straight. "I enjoy cutting it, it cuts real easy, and the wood looks really good-- beautiful boards" says Mel.
Back at Sitka High, the students have already begun applying a preservative treatment to the future deck of the bike shelter to protect the wood. The bike shelter will also rest on top of skids so that water can drain out of the shelter instead of forming pools that will rot the wood. The deck of the shelter is made of Yellow Cedar and Sitka Spruce. The framing and roof deck will be made of rough sawn Sitka Spruce and the structure will be sided and roofed with Red Cedar.
The timber framing of the bike shed is made possible thanks to Daniel Sheehan, a recent Alaska transplant from Massachusetts. Dan showed up at the SCS alder nightstand open house at Sitka High and met Randy Hughey. They discovered a mutual love of classic pegged mortise and tenon timber framing. Dan has worked for four years for Ted Benson Timber Framing in the Northeast United States and volunteered to help teach Randy and the students how to timber frame.
This bike shelter will serve both as a useable space for bikes but also a testament that young growth wood can be used in construction and carpentry fields. It also demonstrates that building with local wood builds community, relationships, and sustains the knowledge of carpentry for future generations.
Funding for this project was provided by the National Forest Foundation as part of an ongoing effort to support sustainable timber harvest and local markets in the Tongass National Forest. The purpose is to invigorate markets for Tongass young-growth timber products, particularly in Southeast Alaska, by exploring their performance in a variety of interior and exterior applications. By sharing practical information, broadening the knowledge base, and connecting local producers with consumers, the Sitka Conservation Society hopes to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.