Popular Girdwood hand tram will likely remain closed, be replaced with bridge

Jeffrey Hummel, owner of Hummel's Flowers in Anchorage, fell off a dock station at the Winner...
Jeffrey Hummel, owner of Hummel's Flowers in Anchorage, fell off a dock station at the Winner Creek Hand Tram and died in 2019. The tram is unlikely to reopen.(KTUU)
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 3:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Winner Creek hand tram in Girdwood is almost a right of passage for hikers in the area. The easy hike through lush forests on the Winner Creek trail leads to the tram where hikers use a pulley system to help each other across Glacier Creek.

Suspended over the gorge in a metal basket is both thrilling and, for some, scary.

But the tram, which closed in 2019, will mostly likely remain closed.

“I’d say it was a fun experience,” said Kyle Kelley, the Girdwood Service area manager for the Municipality of Anchorage. “The original, it was built to be more of a utility, in the sense of getting us across the creeks safer, but it became so popular, it become probably more of a fun ride for people.”

The tram first closed in 2019 after two people fell from the tram’s platform, in separate incidents. One person died and the other had serious injuries. An investigation into the death of Anchorage resident Jeffrey Hummel, 57, revealed Hummel was helping other hikers cross the hand tram when he lost his balance and fell about 50 feet, missing the protective netting.

“The hand tram will remain closed just because of factors related to liability, safety improvements, funding and really overuse,” Kelley said. “That is probably our biggest thing, is it’s gotten too popular.”

It has also been vandalized.

“We’ve had several cases of vandalism over the years and even this winter we had someone cut the lock and use it in the middle of winter,” Kelley said.

The tram first opened in 2001 as a way to connect trails for a handful of hikers. But, over the years, it has grown into a beloved, busy attraction in Girdwood.

Via the pulley system, people load into a metal cart and pull themselves roughly 200 feet across a gorge, gliding more than 100 feet above Glacier Creek.

Kelley said a bridge could be built to replace the tram and would be constructed over the next three to four years, costing anywhere from half a million dollars to $700,000.

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