New mountain biking trails are set to go in this summer at Kincaid Park in West Anchorage after the city's Parks and Recreation Commission approved the project Thursday night.
The plan will add six miles of new single-track trails -- so-called because they are about the width of a single cyclist -- to the nine miles of trail already at Kincaid. Construction expenses and the estimated value of volunteer hours put the project's price tag at about $116,000, said Lee Bolling, vice president of the local group Singletrack Advocates, which planned and lobbied for the trails, called "Phase 2."
Private donations and grants from REI and the Anchorage Parks Foundation will pay for the trail work, he said.
"What we're trying to do with this Phase 2 is kind of make a giant loop around the park," Bolling said. "So we have Phase 1, which is the south end, and then Phase 2 will improve the trail continuity and connectivity and allow us to access some really neat terrain off the north side of the park."
In mid-July, a 4-foot-wide "mini bulldozer" will start plowing out the trails, with a small excavator following behind to dig drainages for water, Bolling said. Volunteers armed with shovels and other hand tools will hopefully finish sculpting the trails by September or October, he said.
In many ways, the actual work on the trails themselves may be the most straightforward part of the project.
"Kincaid Park is a very complicated park, because there are so many different user groups in there. Just the time effort it takes to set up meetings and go meet with all the user groups, and sometimes you've got to meet multiple times," Bolling said. "It's a pretty long process, and there are certain parts along the way where we're like, 'Oh man, is this even going to happen?' But then we find a better route and it works out."
The mountain bikers and city officials had to be aware of how the trails might affect other user groups at the 1,400-acre Kincaid Park, which, for the bikers, include Nordic skiers, runners and walkers, and archers, said Anchorage Parks Superintendant Holly Spoth-Torres. The mountain biking community learned a lot from the earlier single-track projects at Kincaid and on the Hillside, she said.
"When you're dealing with park planning issues, and public parks, and public land in general, there's always multiple user groups, and it's tricky to find the balance," Spoth-Torres said. "But this isn't their first time around the block."
For example, Bolling said, during the process of mapping the trails he tried to minimize the number of times it would have to cross ski trails. The group tackled that issue when building the first nine miles of trail at Kincaid, he said.
"There were concerns over that, but we tried to figure out the best way to do it," Bolling said. "There's a lot of times where something looks good on a map, but when you actually get out there you see the different slopes and stuff and choose a different route."
The rolling hills at Kincaid, which make it a fun place to bike in the first place, were the key. Putting trail crossings at the tops of hills means bikers, skiers or runners will be moving slower, and therefore helps prevent collisions or near-collisions, Bolling said. They also learned that it is easier on ski groomers in the winter if the bike trails cross ski trails at an angle, not straight across, Spoth-Torres said.
The Anchorage Nordic Skiing Association and its head trail groomer signed off on the new trail crossings, but a walkthrough showed the trail, as originally mapped, would be too close to Kincaid's archery range, Bolling said. So they decided to move the trail, he said.
"It's cool when you go out and talk to these user groups, you ultimately come up with a better trail system, because everyone has influence on it, and you're minimizing issues and making it a better project," Bolling said.
More than 75 people showed their support for the new single-track trails at the Parks and Rec Commission meeting Thursday night, said Spoth-Torres, the parks superintendant. After hearing Bolling's presentation last month, then again Thursday, the nine commissioners voted unanimously to approve the plan, she said.
"There is a high demand for mountain biking, but also winter snow biking. The use just keeps growing and growing. And from a Parks and Rec perspective, it's important to have safe places to do that," Spoth-Torres said. "It's our goal to get people outdoors and active close to home."
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
PDF: Read the bike trail proposal
By CASEY GROVE