Don’t listen to those snow happy friends of yours; there’s plenty of summer left, leaving you plenty of time to get out and enjoy some of Alaska’s great trails. As you read these words, Alaskans are out recreating on trails across the state. Chugach State Park alone offers over 280 miles of trail right in our backyard. The Mat-Su Valley features over 2,000 miles of trails, and the Chugach National Forest more than 250 miles. This represents only a snapshot of what’s out there.
Alaska’s trails improve our physical and mental health, boost our economy, and strengthen our community. For residents and visitors alike, trails get us out, keep us active and help us access the outdoors. Let’s hope the smoke continues to clear and the fires die down so that we can all get out and experience what these trails bring Alaska.
While we all enjoy these amazing trails, we don’t always consider how they are maintained or built. This summer, Alaska Trails has been teaming up with local land managers to help protect the trails we love and make sure that people can continue to enjoy them. Trail users who want to give back still have the opportunity to join up with other volunteers for a fun and engaging day (or more) of trail work this summer. Our Alaska Trail Stewards program is set to give volunteers all they need to give back to the trails they use and love.
Volunteer days in the Mat-Su include Settler’s Bay on September 21. Volunteers will be able to help build new trails in the Settlers Bay Coastal Park, a unique area of the Mat-Su that has beautiful views of Cook Inlet. This new park was created by a partnership between the Mat-Su Borough and the Great Land Trust. There will be over 3 miles of walking trails on this wonderful new park at the end of Knik Goose Bay road.
Whittier also boasts a number of great trails and opportunities for trail volunteers. Still to come this fall,
Alaska Trails and Chugach State Park have collaborated all summer on the Middle Fork Trail. There will be several more events on the Middle Fork in September, highlighted by National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 28th. Volunteers that day will be treated to food and drinks after the days’ work courtesy of Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits and the Brown Jug.
Volunteers have provided lots of labor, this summer and in previous summers. The Alaska Trail Stewards (ATS) volunteer program celebrated a successful 2018 season with 291 volunteers contributing over 1900 hours of labor at 23 separate events. In addition to the trails on Mat-Su Borough land, ATS volunteers worked on public lands in Chugach State Park, Chugach volunteers will brush out and improve sight lines on the Whittier Creek Trail and the
adjacent Horsetail Falls Connector Trail. Volunteers will also be constructing and widening trail tread.
National Forest, the City of Whittier, and Hatcher Pass State Park — amounting to $52,644 in donated labor. We are set to surpass that in 2019 with 30 events — thanks to all the great volunteer support.
Summer is cooling off and turning to fall, but there’s still time to get out and enjoy the great trails Alaska has to offer. If your schedule permits, we hope to see you at one of our volunteer events. No experience is necessary, just sturdy boots, a good attitude and a willingness to learn what it takes to keep our trails great.
Steve Cleary is Executive Director of Alaska Trails. Volunteer information can be found at the Alaska Trails website alaska-trails.org