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Kaibab National Forest recognized for historic cabin restoration project

Two men, taking measurements on a log that will serve to rebuild the roof of the cabin in the background
Kaibab National Forest employees, partners and volunteers have worked together for more than two years to rehabilitate the historic 1911 Kendrick Mountain Fire Lookout Cabin. USDA Forest Service photo by Neil Weintraub.

ARIZONA — Kaibab National Forest employees, partners and volunteers are being honored by the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office and the Arizona Preservation Foundation for rehabilitation efforts on the historic Kendrick Mountain Fire Lookout Cabin.

The years-long rehabilitation project is one of the 2019 recipients of the prestigious Governor's Heritage Preservation Honor Awards, which are given annually to recognize excellence in historic and cultural preservation efforts in Arizona. The honor awards are intended to promote public awareness of historic preservation in the state, publicly recognize contributions by organizations and volunteers, and identify heritage projects that demonstrate excellence in design and execution. The award is scheduled to be presented on June 13, during the 1 7th Annual Arizona Historic Preservation Conference

The cabin, which is located on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, was built in 1911 and is one of the oldest structures associated with early Forest Service wildfire detection. In 1988 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, establishing it firmly as a treasured site to be preserved.

While Forest Service fire crews once maintained the cabin by driving or flying materials to the site, Kendrick Mountain was designated a wilderness area in 1984. Preserving a historic site in wilderness added extra challenges for forest managers, as the designation required that all materials be packed in and work accomplished through non-mechanized means.

When a Douglas fir tree fell on Kendrick cabin's roof in winter 2016 destroying five of the six support beams, Kaibab National Forest managers needed to get creative to save the structure. Through partnerships with Northern Arizona University, Davey Mac Studio and Workshop, American Conservation Experience and many dedicated volunteers, the USDA Forest Service launched an extensive rehabilitation project that would take the next two years to complete.

 "To see such a large partnership of different people and organizations come together was very rewarding," said David McKee of Davey Mac Studio and Workshop, who has served as a long-time volunteer on the restoration project. "I don't think the cabin would have remained standing through the past winter if everyone hadn’t worked together to make it happen. To have finished this phase literally as the sun was setting and snow was coming felt very gratifying."

"I’ll always be grateful that the Forest Service valued its own history enough to preserve and interpret these vestiges of the past so that others can learn about how these public lands were protected for future generations,” said Teri Cleeland, former historian on the Kaibab National Forest and the author of the site's National Register nomination.