Trails group hopes to connect peninsula with Interior
Opportunities to engage in outdoor recreation is one of the most important things for many residents of, and almost all of the visitors to, the Kenai Peninsula.
“Outdoor recreation is a huge part of my district. And every time there’s a new trail built, whether it’s a bike trail or hiking trail it gets used immediately and often,” said Fritz Creek Assemblyman Willy Dunne.
His comments came during a presentation to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly by Chris Beck regarding a proposed Seward-to-Fairbanks multi-use trail.
Beck was before the assembly to sell them on the idea of a long trail along the lines of the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails, which have become destinations for travelers from all over the world.
“The average day in a place like New Zealand, which is another like Alaska, a long haul destination is 19 days. In Alaska it's just 9.1 days. New Zealand has made a lot of investments in trails and campgrounds and a variety of things where Alaska, I would argue has not done as much as might be done using the typical years,” Beck said. “If we could convince folks, if we give them more reasons to choose, to spend another day here, it's an extra $137 million in annual in-state spending.”
Assemblyman Richard Derkevorkian pressed Beck on access for multiple user groups, such as snowmachiners.
“Spent a lot of time over the last five years working on the national forest revision plan. And I didn't hear any mention of this at any of the meetings over the last five years. So this is kind of new to me and I just want to make sure that when we're talking new trails, that they are open to all user groups and it wouldn't be restricting anyone.”
“Our long-term vision is to have a braided system of trails that would allow a variety of users to enjoy it,” he said. “And so, for example between say Seward and Anchorage, or even between Seward and Palmer, we'd like there to be a paved bike trail. Portions that exist, but independent of that in a different location, we'd like it, if there was a hiking trail, like much of the, Iditarod is today.”
Beck encouraged the assembly to explore how it can participate and to encourage the legislature to pass the governor’s bond package which includes funding for trail projects.
“ I think the short version is the federal government's offering to subsidize outdoor recreation investments. Give Alaskans more things to do, give visitors more reason to spend time and money. And we're working with the legislature, asking them to support what the governor has done. There's these couple of recommendations from the governor now in front of the legislature, which would open the door for the borough to have access to funds requires a match, which can be in dollars, it can be in land and those funds are used for infrastructure and for acquisition of parklands.”
There’s more about the Alaska Long Trail online.