OF TRAIL CONSTRUCTED
For over 15 years, Alaska Trails has teamed up with partners across the state to build, maintain and advocate for more and better trails. While 2020 didn't go exactly as planned, we still accomplished a lot. Check out some of the highlights from our year below!
Little O'Malley Peak Trail
Working in partnership with Chugach State Park and the Chugach Park Fund, who initially raised funds for the Little O'Malley Peak Trail to celebrate CSP’s 50th Anniversary, we were able to hire our first ever paid trail crew, design, and construct the first section of this new trail. The O’Malley Gully Trail, providing the link from a popular trail head to a higher alpine landscape below O’Malley Peak, has become increasingly popular over the past five years. However, the toll on the landscape has become more evident each year as users struggle with the steep and eroding trail. A great deal of thought was put into the design of the trail to ensure hikers will not cut the new switchbacks and create erosion problems, and the lower grade will hopefully help alleviate the need for trail rescues, which are a problem on the old O’Malley Gully Trail. Additional funding from the Anchorage Trail Care Fund and the CARES Act allowed us to retain our paid crew until fall, successfully completing and opening this first section of trail just before the first snow fell.
Middle Fork Trail Crew
Through CARES Act funding from the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska Trails also hired a crew to work on the popular Middle Fork trail in Chugach State Park (CSP). CSP and Alaska Trails completed the first part of this reroute in 2019. In 2020, the crew completed about 0.4 miles of new trail and maintained about 0.5 miles of volunteer-built trail from 2019. The reroute will replace an unsustainable fall line section of the trail. The new trail is being built utilizing sustainable contour-linear, full bench construction. This sustainable trail building practice will mean that the trail will be enjoyable, long-lasting and need less maintenance than the current trail. The Middle Fork trail is a very popular trail in CSP and has seen continuous improvements over the last 10 years. This is the last unsustainable stretch left to be improved. The rising popularity of winter biking, allowed on this trail, highlights the need to finish the upgrades. The improvements will help mitigate conflicts between different user groups and minimize high-speed wildlife encounters.
Bird to Gird Maintenance
Through a Recreational Trails Program Grant from Alaska State Parks, Alaska Trails hired a contractor to seal cracks and repaint the center line for the Indian to Girdwood National Recreational Trail – known as “Bird to Gird.” It is an extremely popular paved bicycle trail in Chugach State Park which meets the standards for an ADA access trails. The accessible nature of the trail is such that it can facilitate an intense amount of use from a variety of users. The trail travels through world-class scenery along Turnagain Arm and has become a destination for users looking to travel between the two points while stopping in Girdwood to enjoy a meal before heading back north. The pavement sealing and striping made the trail safer and more enjoyable. The grant also provides fund to brush the trail and that will happen in 2021.
CARES Act funding also enabled Alaska Trails to hire Northern Trail Maintenance to brush several of the trails adjacent to the Middle Fork trail in Chugach State Park. These trails are designated for hiking and walking and are typically overgrown by late summer. Brushing these trails not only increased the safety of the trails but also expanded the number of opportunities for hikers, walkers and runners in the Fall of 2020. With trail use expanding due to COVID, having more trail options was critical to keep people spread out while they continued to reap the health benefits of trails. A Rapid Response grant from the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation helped allowed us to deploy trail crew in the Mat-Su Borough, and to employ a contract brusher at Skeetawk in Hatcher Pass.
Alaska Geographic, CSP + SCA Collaboration
Through a grant from the Coronavirus Non-Profit Relief Fund, Alaska Trails has partnered with Chugach State Park, Student Conservation Association , Alaska Geographic to design and layout two world class alpine multi-use trail for hikers and equestrians. These two trails go between the parking lots of Arctic Valley Ski Area on the west and Eagle-Symphony Lakes Trailhead (in the South Fork Eagle River valley) on the east. These trails provide outstanding vistas of Anchorage, the Alaska Range, upper Ship Creek Valley, and views up and down the South Fork of Eagle River valley as well as some very nice blueberry patches. The vision is to have a fun, family friendly sustainable trail that many different people can enjoy. In addition to the trail layout, the project also gave SCA participants new skills and a view of what a career in trail work looks like. Alaska Geographic compiled a video of the work and will be working with the partners to distribute that to young people who are looking for an exciting career.
Alaska Trails Initiative
With partners around Alaska, ATI produced the Trails Investment Strategy, identifying high value trails projects. Building from this work, this year we’ve helped secure $1.3M for trails in the Rosie Creek area near Fairbanks, Bison Gulch in the Denali Borough, and in Chugach State Park, in Anchorage’s backyard.
We’re forging ahead with the Alaska Long Trail. With some of the most stunning wilderness in the world, Alaska is long overdue in creating a world class long trail of its own. The Long Trail will stitch together existing and planned trails, many of which were identified in our Trails Investment Strategy document.
ATI is collaborating with AK’s Congressional delegation and our state legislators to help deliver millions of federal outdoor recreation dollars to Alaska trail projects. These funds, which include programs such as Land and Water Conservation Fund, Recreation Trails Program, and Pittman-Robertson/Hunter Access, are sitting on the State’s doorstep, but Alaska has been turning them away.
Alaska Trails was approached by the Tongass National Forest to prepare a Sustainable Trail Strategy for the Forest through a Challenge Cost Share Agreement. This work will build on ATI’s Trails Investment Strategy, tailored to the specific issues in the Tongass and its communities. The heart of this project is bringing together USFS and community interests to identify shared priorities for action.