What a beautiful fall we have been having. It's time to celebrate our great trails. National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands. In Alaska, with over 300 million acres of public land, we have a lot to celebrate. In 2018, National Public Lands Day will be held on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Volunteering on trails is a great way to connect communities to the public lands in their backyard and it gives them a healthy, active way to share in the stewardship of these important areas. An increasing number of children are growing obese and losing their connection to the outdoors. Introducing them to public lands and engaging them in helping maintain them is a great step toward giving them both skills and recreational opportunities. And it's fun.
Alaska Trails works to enhance and maintain trails across Alaska. Sustainable trails enable all types of users to access and enjoy public lands while not compromising the integrity and beauty that make the land so unique. Trails enhance our economy in communities across the state. Whether for hunting and fishing access, Tuesday Night Races, singletrack mountain biking or a stroll with the family, trails brings us out and together. They are the backbone of outdoor life.
In the summer of 2017, the Alaska Trail Stewards program recruited 112 volunteers who contributed 756 hours of donated labor. Volunteers improved 7,055 feet of trail on public lands in Chugach State Park, Chugach National Forest, the city of Whittier and Kachemak Bay State Park, amounting to $23,059 in donated labor. The AK Trail Stewards help land managers reap the benefits of working with volunteers and the great energy they bring.
We have already surpassed those numbers in 2018. And we're still going.
On National Public Lands Day, the Alaska Trail Stewards will be teaming up with Hatcher Pass Management Area to install a new loop trail above the Independence Mine Complex, and revegetation work on the Gold Cord Lake Trail to repair erosion damage and human impacts.
Across the state from Eagle to Juneau, there are great volunteer activities and you can find more information about them at the National Public Lands Day website.
Please be a responsible volunteer and come dressed for the weather. Remember to wear work boots and work gloves, and to bring a water bottle, food – and a smile. Your work is important to the trails and the great benefits they bring.
For more information on any of these volunteer opportunities, please contact Alaska Trails at 907-334-8049 or visit their website.
Steve Cleary is the executive director of Alaska Trails.
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