K'esugi Ridge

K’esugi Ridge.

WASILLA — The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently awarded a $937,000 grant to the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation to add 15 miles of new trail on the K’esugi Ridge Trail system within Denali State Park.

“It’s important. Recreation, infrastructure and access to quality trails and parks in the Valley is a right I think everyone in the Valley should be able to exercise,” Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation Executive Director Wes Hoskins said.

Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation is collaborating with Fish and Game’s Wildlife Conservation Division and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division for this three-year project that will connect the K’esugi Ken Campground to the K’esugi Ridge Trail.

Crews will survey the land for exact alignments during the summer of 2020. Construction is expected to start in 2021 and finish by 2022.

The trail upgrade will offer better access to an increasingly popular area, according to Hoskins. He said the multi-use area is frequented by hunters, hikers, campers, and snowmachine riders throughout the year.

Alaska State Parks recently built five miles of new trail from the K’esugi Ken Campground to Lake 1787. The Curry Ridge Connector will pick up from there, connecting to the existing K’esugi Ridge Trail near the crossing point at Upper Troublesome Creek.

The end result will extend the K’esugi Ridge Trail system to an estimated 45 miles of trail total.

Hoskins said Alaska State Parks has wanted to make this project happen for years and now the funding is finally available thanks to the collaboration between nonprofit and state government.

“So, that’s kind of the cool thing about this project and I see happening in the future, organizations that are not necessarily government programs, nonprofits like us are really helping to build out quality infrastructure in the Valley through us doing fundraising… to have a stake in the infrastructure projects and get them done,” Hoskins said.

Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act from the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fund the project with the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation matching funds, according to Hoskins.

He said Pittman-Robertson funds draw from tax revenue collected from firearm, ammunition, and archery equipment sales designated towards public access to wildlife resources and improving hunter access.

“You can get up to a portion of the ridge in summer on a built trail and be able to get up there and view wildlife, just take in the sights. You can basically look across the Valley and if Denali is out, you can see Denali,” Hoskins said.

The grant covers 75 percent of the project and the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation matched the remaining 25 percent, which runs over $300,000, according to Hoskins. The entire project adds up to an estimated 1.2 million dollars.

Hoskins said this project serves as a great example of a partnership where a charitable organization was able to leverage funds from the community to achieve large-scale projects on public lands.

He said the project wouldn’t be possible without big supporters like the Mat-Su Health Foundation and donations from passionate people across the Valley.

For more information about this project and to find out how to support more projects like it, contact Wes Hoskins at Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation at 746-8757 or whoskins@matsutrails.org. Or visit the Foundation website at www.matsutrails.org

To learn about the Fish and Game’s Hunter Access Program, visit hunteraccess.adfg.alaska.gov.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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