PALMER — Mat-Su Borough Assembly members voted Tuesday to extend a road in Hatcher Pass and build trailhead parking.
“We were going to build some geezer trails up at Hatcher Pass and this is the road that gets us up there,” Assemblyman Jim Colver said. “This ordinance will take interest earnings from the land management fund and plow it back into our own asset.”
The plan will invest $3.43 million of mostly federal money in the project. The piece from the land management fund — where the borough deposits proceeds from resource fees like gravel royalties — totals $218,465.
Colver said federal funding for the project was short $43,465. Without it, the borough could have just built the road, but not the parking lot. The additional $175,000 or so of borough money is for contingencies.
Testimony from Jay Nolfi opposing the use of land management funds for the project was read into the record at the meeting.
“This ordinance is flawed in several ways. It is merely wishful desire, a last-minute grab without funding, which should be postponed indefinitely,” she wrote in an email Assemblyman Steve Colligan read on her behalf. “To my knowledge, Hatcher Pass has never been placed before the taxpayers to see if they want their government to own and operate a ski resort.”
She questioned whether the borough was even allowed to use the interest earnings on the $5 million in that account for this kind of project. Assistant Borough Manager Don Moore told the assembly that roads are actually explicitly mentioned as something the borough can spend the money on.
“It’s going into a borough project to complete a borough road,” Moore said.
The trails in question, the borough says, are 10 miles long. The road being built, called Ullr’s Trail, will run a mile north of Edgerton Parks Road and end at that parking lot.
Colver said quite a bit of the funding got soaked up in studies because it’s a federally funded project, requiring a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement and various other pieces of federal paperwork.
“The whole project has been downsized quite a bit just to get the road in. There has been quite a bit of effort put into this and quite a few dollars cobbled together,” he said.
The trails are not the only project the borough has in the area. This summer, the borough intends to begin work on 10 kilometers of Nordic ski trails. The Mat-Su Ski Club has already cleared brush and trees for the trails, designed by Olympian Bill Spencer. The trails could open this November, the borough reports.
Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at email@example.com or 352-2270.