View of Eagle River valley. @Alaska NPS
Back to Alaska Long Trail, keep Alaska Traverse on hold
In August 2023, the Alaska Long Trail Coalition switched the name of the Alaska Long Trail project to the Alaska Traverse. However, the Coalition has since learned that the project would benefit from keeping its old name, which has been used over the past three years. The trail has an opportunity to be designated as a National Scenic Trail, and keeping the old name will greatly increase chances of success of this designation.
With the help of Senator Murkowski (THANK YOU!), the Congress recently directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct the National Scenic Trail feasibility study for the “Alaska Long Trail,” and this language is now part of the National Scenic Trails Act. This means that the BLM will have to refer to the project under that name for the duration of the study, which can take three or more years (average is seven).
After considering the implications of keeping two names for the same project over the next three or more years, it has become clear that this situation would create confusion and possibly pushback, jeopardizing not only the success of the National Scenic Trail feasibility study but also other funding opportunities (state capital budget, federal appropriations, etc). Alaska Trails and partners want to maximize the success of the feasibility study and minimize the confusion about the name of the project, and that’s why the project name is going back to the Alaska Long Trail. At the end of the feasibility study, there will be an opportunity to work with the BLM on a different name for the project, and that would be the time to suggest the change to the Alaska Traverse or another option.
The National Scenic Trail (NST) system comprises 11 long trails around the country, including the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. The NST designation opens doors to more federal funding in the future and will be critical to the development of the Alaskan long trail. The designation would also bring more nationwide recognition, leading to increased visitation and business to communities along the route. The NST designation does not set restrictions to specific trail use (motorized can be included), and decisions on the trail use are left with land managers such as municipalities, boroughs, and state and federal agencies.