The Alaska Long Trail:
Planning the Missing Segments
In 2022, the Alaska Long Trail has continued to receive bipartisan support across user groups and geographic regions. During the spring 2022 legislative session, the bipartisan state legislature passed its FY2023 budget to include all 15 Alaska Long Trail capital and planning projects our coalition advocated for. While only half of the projects stayed in the budget after Governor Dunleavy’s vetoes, the resulting $4.22 for 7 projects is an unprecedented win for trails in Alaska’s state budget! Alaska Trails and partners are set to continue the work to secure more funding for the trail during the spring 2023 legislative session.
On the federal side, Senator Murkowski secured capital project funding - $5.77M - to fill in the missing segments along the Iditarod National Historic Trail – Southern Trek in the Chugach National Forest.
In addition to the capital projects and planning funding secured in 2022, we are grateful for the grants and donations received for our Alaska Long Trail operational expenses. This year, Race Across Alaska Winter Challenge participants donated over $42,000 to the project! Plus, direct donations for the trail on our website have been steadily rising. We are also excited for the nearly $39,000 grant from the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation to fund the Mat-Su Borough Coordinator of the Alaska Long Trail, starting in December 2022.
© Alaska Trails
© Bob Wick (BLM)
Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP)
In 2022, Alaska Trails was the project manager and principal writer for the 2023-2027 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) update, assisting Alaska State Parks with the production of the document, public outreach, and public comment process. The final document will be available from the Alaska State Parks website in January 2023. It is filled to the brim with new data, current trends in outdoor recreation in Alaska, policy recommendations, and specific strategies to achieve the seven statewide goals identified in the plan.
The SCORP is updated every five years and serves as a guide for all public outdoor recreation in urban and rural neighborhoods, cities, and regions for a given state. The SCORP update is also an eligibility requirement for funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities.
Tongass National Forest Sustainable Trails Strategy
Work continued on Phase 2 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 locations in the Tongass including: Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell and Yakutat. Environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the existing trails and trail systems were considered.
The draft Phase 2 Tongass Sustainable Trails Strategy was completed in December 2022 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. Community outreach for letters in support of the Trails Strategy will occur in the first quarter of 2023 before the project concludes. Alaska Trails is grateful for the opportunity to work with Tongass communities over the past 2+ years and looks forward to the Forest Service's implementation of the community-driven recommendations presented in the strategy. You can learn more about the TSTS here.
© Haley Johnston
Alaska Trail Stewards
Over the course of 24 events, 205 Alaska Trail Stewards volunteers contributed 1108 volunteer hours and $31,637 of donated labor! Our ATS volunteers built or maintained 52,381 feet of trail by hand, lessening the trail maintenance burden on public land managers and others who are responsible for safely and sustainably maintaining trails throughout Alaska. In 2022, ATS projects ranged from Eklutna Lake to Middle Fork to Whittier (check out our map to see all of them). You can learn more about the Alaska Trail Stewards volunteer program here.
© Carl Battreall
Paid Trail Crews
Alaska Trails fielded two paid crews in 2022 to help local land managers build trails and tackle maintenance they otherwise could not complete. One crew spent the entire summer in Cordova, working in partnership with the USFS. Their work focused on both the McKinley Lake trail and the Child’s Glacier area – trying to make sure that both areas have sustainable trails and reliable access.
Our other paid crew worked on various projects in Chugach State Park, the Chugach National Forest, Whittier and Girdwood. Their flexibility enabled them to take on many projects that land managers had on their lists for some time. They worked on trails such as: the Turnagain Arm Trail, the Winner Creek Trail, the Middle Fork Trail, the Crescent Lake Trail, and the Eklutna Lakeside Trail.
This was a true team effort and we are grateful to our partners including: the Chugach Park Fund, Chugach State Park, Chugach National Forest, Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area, the National Forest Foundation, and REI.
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 University Lake Park to tree planting along the Campbell Creek Trail.
© Ben Ervin