Mat-Su Assembly reaffirms support for Alaska Long Trail while opposing federal restrictions

PALMER — The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution opposing federal restrictions on borough-owned land while reaffirming support for a 500-mile trail envisioned between Seward and Fairbanks.

An earlier version of the resolution formally opposed any land restrictions that could come with the federal designation of the corridor, known as the Alaska Long Trail, as a National Scenic Trail. The resolution was proposed by Assembly member Robert Yundt, whose district includes Wasilla.

The final version of the resolution removes the reference to the National Scenic Trail designation, instead stating that the assembly is “opposed to overreaching restrictions within the boundaries of the borough.”

The Long Trail would create a network of trails across the state by connecting a patchwork of existing trails with newly constructed ones. The longest segment would run through the Mat-Su, stretching from the Knik River over a hundred miles through Denali State Park.

A $1 million Bureau of Land Management study is underway to determine whether the trail should be a National Scenic Trail, a designation that could bring millions in funding. Only 11 such trails in the U.S. operate under that designation, including the Appalachian Trail.

Yundt said during Tuesday’s Assembly meeting that he supports the development of the Long Trail but wants to avoid any federal partnership that could create motorized user restrictions or prevent the borough from using its land for mining or timber sales.

The Assembly in 2021 approved a general resolution backing the Long Trail concept.

National Scenic Trails are organized by federal officials but overseen by a local nonprofit organization, according to federal law. Federal officials are required by law to work with state and local landowners to determine trail use and maintenance rules, including whether motorized vehicles will be allowed, Bureau of Land Management officials said in a statement Monday.

Amy Bushatz

Amy Bushatz is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su covering Valley news for the ADN.