The McGraw cabin is about 10 miles southwest of Sitka. It’s build on log skids and has been moved once — after the Forest Service said that it encroached on federal land. (KCAW image)

Plans are underway to repurpose a 50-year old hunting cabin near Sitka as a visitor venue.

Sitka-based Halibut Point Marine has applied for a 10-year lease of state  tidelands to stage day tours for cruise passengers from their family-owned cabin and dock in Silver Bay.

Note: The public comment period on the tidelands lease in Silver Bay is open through December 15. View a copy of the proposed lease, and find information on how to comment. 

The cabin has been at the head of Silver Bay since 1970, built by Dormand McGraw, Sr.

The elder McGraw died in 2007. Now another McGraw — Chris — who owns Halibut Point Marine and the Old Sitka cruise ship dock, hopes the site could be an attractive excursion for cruise ship passengers.

“The idea would be to transport passengers, either from Crescent Harbor or from the dock out here at Halibut Point Marine, out there for roughly a three-hour trip,” McGraw said, “and they might be out there for an hour-and-a-half to two hours. And we would reconstruct the cabin in the same footprint, and utilize that for getting geared up. And after they’re done kayaking they could have a snack, enjoy the view, and maybe have a campfire at the cabin. And then bring them back to town.”

McGraw made an application to the state Department of Natural Resources in February, 2019, to modify the uses of the cabin from recreational, to include staging day tours for the public. The tour activities, as stated in the permit, are “kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Renovating the cabin is also permitted in the lease, but McGraw doesn’t anticipate that its character will change much.

“It’s only 20×40, so it’s not that large,” said McGraw. “It’s going to be an enclosed cabin. The cabin that’s there now is pretty much an open structure inside. So we would build something that would be utilized by visitors — groups of 15-20 — but then could also be used in the wintertime in the off-season for a winter trip.”

The cabin is accessed by an existing 200-square foot floating dock. The total area covered by the lease is just under a half-acre.

McGraw has formed a new company called “Adventure Sitka” to operate the excursion. As the owner of the only private cruise ship dock in town, McGraw says it’s important to ensure that cruise ships continue to have reasons to bring their passengers to Sitka.

“Ultimately their goal is to sell excursions,” said McGraw, “because they make money on the excursions. If we can provide more revenue opportunities for the ships, then hopefully more ships will want to come. And the ones that are coming will continue to come.”

Although the cabin excursion will be tailored to cruise passengers, McGraw is not forsaking independent travelers. In addition to launching “Adventure Sitka,” McGraw recently purchased Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures, which sells kayaking tours out of a blue bus in the Harrigan Centennial Hall parking lot. He says the plan is to continue to operate the business in much the same way as its previous owners, Alison and John Dunlap.

The Department of Natural Resources issued a preliminary decision to approve McGraw’s application for a commercial dock and cabin in Silver Bay on November 15. The public comment period will be open for 30 days.