Our trails need
Alaska has barely tapped our state's remarkable outdoor resources. The Alaska Trails Initiative seeks to:
BOLSTER PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR TRAILS AND THE OUTDOOR RECREATION ECONOMY.
Trails need and deserve a public advocate. For too long, outdoor recreation has served as the go-to area for budget cuts, with administrative entities treating it as a "luxury" industry. In fact, outdoor recreation is a smart investment. Creating and improving quality recreational trail systems more than doubles the return on investment. Outdoor recreation in Alaska is a $3.2 billion industry, and if we could encourage half of our annual visitors to stay one more day, we could inject an additional $137 million in spending into our economy. With over 60% of visitors engaging in some sort of outdoor activity while they're here, investing in sustainable trails is an investment in a stronger, more durable Alaskan economy.
RAISE AWARENESS OF PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFITS.
Trails provide public health benefits in terms of increased mental health, increased happiness, and increased physical well-being. In the Mat-Su Borough alone, access to public outdoor spaces has saved the region's residents approximately $3.24 M annually in health care and lost productivity costs. If all Alaskan residents gain the same benefit from public outdoor spaces, they could save around $25.1 M annually.
SECURE FUNDING FOR TRAIL MAINTENANCE AND DEVELOPMENT.
For decades, state and federal agencies have been unable to provide trails enough funding assistance. The result: more than $28.8 M in deferred maintenance on state- and federally-managed trails in Alaska, and a lack of resources to promote further development. Despite tremendous public aid and volunteer support, without funding assistance, trail organizations cannot simultaneously perform critical maintenance while continuing to develop new trails that offer greater public and economic benefits.
EXPAND ACCESS TO OUTDOOR RECREATION ACROSS THE STATE.
For most rural communities, trails are essential for subsistence year-round. They also provide an opportunity to attract travelers and their spending. Most formal attention and support, however, is lent to trails along the road system. With climate change posing an even more urgent threat to the trails and the ability of rural residents to travel safely and reliably, attention needs to be directed to these trail systems which are so essential for these communities.