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2021 Highlights

This year saw new trails built, many trails improved, and much planning done for the future. Check out the highlights of our 2021 season below! 

Read more about our 2020 highlights here.

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The Alaska Long Trail:

Planning the Missing Segments

The ambitious Alaska Long Trail project is gaining a lot of momentum and support! The idea is spearheaded by Alaska Trails in collaboration with many partners along the 500-mile proposed route between Seward and Fairbanks. Over the course of 2021, the Long Trail coalition of state and federal land managers, local governments, trails organizations, and user groups has identified 10 projects that could fill in a few missing segments. Through the diligent work of the Long Trail coalition, the state legislature approved $13.2M for these projects in the Alaska capital budget, but they were subsequently vetoed by Governor Dunleavy this summer. Alaska Trails and partners will continue working with our state legislators and Governor’s administration to secure funding at the state level. 

© Alaska Trails

Funding for the Long Trail

We are heartened to see so much support and excitement about the Alaska Long Trail project. This vision requires not just construction funds but time and resources to plan the routes, gather community input, bring key landowners and managers into the conversation, create maps and visual materials for the outreach, and secure funding for construction and maintenance. We are well on our way toward a $100,000 budget goal after a generous $19,000 donation from the Race Across Alaska Winter Challenge. Alaska Trails is also excited and grateful to have received $50,000 from the Rasmuson Foundation for the Long Trail planning. You can learn more about funding sources for the Alaska Long Trail here.

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© Chris Beck

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© Bob Wick (BLM)

Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP)

Since early 2020, Alaska Trails has played an integral part in the 2023-2027 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) update. Updated every five years, the SCORP serves as a guide for all public outdoor recreation in urban and rural neighborhoods, cities, and regions for a given state. This plan attempts to bring together the wants and needs of recreation users and providers into a single comprehensive document. The SCORP update is also an eligibility requirement for funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. Led by the NPS River, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program and overseen by Alaska State Parks, with assistance from Alaska Trails, the 2023-2027 SCORP provides a long overdue opportunity for a comprehensive, project-focused, locally driven process for guiding investments and strategies for outdoor recreation. It will be open for public review in the Spring of 2022. You can learn more about the SCORP here.

Tongass National Forest Sustainable Trails Strategy

Work continued on Phase 1 of the Tongass Sustainable Trails Strategy (TSTS) through an agreement with the Tongass National Forest. Staff conducted virtual and in-person meetings with community members, stakeholders, Forest staff and Alaska Native partners. Staff also completed site visits to four locations in the Tongass: Prince of Wales Island, Kake, Hoonah and Sitka. Environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the existing trails and trail systems were considered.  

The draft Phase 1 Tongass Sustainable Trails Strategy was completed this fall and is currently being shared with Forest staff and community partners. Alaska trails is excited to incorporate community feedback into the draft document as we continue to refine our recommendations for trail building, maintenance, and decommissioning, as well as recommendations for programs and approaches to achieve community trail goals.  Work on Phase 2 will begin in early 2022 by expanding the scope of the project to include Yakutat, Angoon, additional communities on Prince of Wales, Wrangell, and Ketchikan. You can learn more about the TSTS here.

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© Chris Beck

Alaska Trail Stewards

Over the course of 19 events, 190 Alaska Trail Stewards volunteers contributed 1375 volunteer hours and $37,350 of donated labor! Created to provide volunteer-based trail maintenance services to public land managers and others who have responsibility for safely and sustainably maintaining trails throughout Alaska, our ATS volunteers built or maintained 74,174 feet of trail by hand.  In 2021, ATS projects ranged from Reed Lakes to Whittier to Johnson Pass (check out our map to see all of them). You can learn more about the Alaska Trail Stewards volunteer program here.

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© Michelle Crowl

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Paid Trail Crews

Alaska Trails teamed up with the Chugach Park Fund to complete the popular Little O’Malley Peak Trail in Chugach State Park. This wonderful re-route replaces an eroding trail and will enable many more users to safely enjoy a sustainable trail with amazing views.

Our Chugach National Forest trail crew improved trails all across the forest from Cordova to Seward. They brushed trails on the Iditarod National Historic Trail and improved drainage on the Gull Rock trail out of Hope.  

 

At the close of the season, the crews merged into one unit that worked in Hatcher Pass State Park, Settler’s Bay Coastal Park and on the Eklutna Lakeside trail.

© Rian Schwab

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Youth Employment in Parks

We partnered again with the Anchorage Park Foundation to provide a supervisor for their Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) program. YEP is a 10 week summer program that hires Anchorage teens to complete park improvement projects, teaching them resource management skills and developing a new generation of environmentally engaged leaders.  This summer the crews worked on projects ranging from trail maintenance at Far North Bicentennial Park to stream bank restoration at the Westchester Lagoon Nature Trail.

© Ben Ervin