Alaska Trails is adapting to the new realities of COVID-19 for the summer season and beyond. We had hoped to conduct our Crew Leader Training for our popular Alaska Trail Stewards program in May. The training would have led to big volunteer events on National Trails Day (June 6) and throughout the rest of the summer. But the Crew Leader training had to be canceled, and National Trails Day has gone virtual. Fingers crossed (and washed) in hopes that we will be able to have volunteer events later in the summer, but they are all on hold for now. We are making the best of the situation and have been encouraging Alaskans to continue to use trails with the proper safety measures and we have put new resources on our website – including health recommendations and trail reports – to inform new and veteran trail users about trails across the state and how to stay safe on them.
Alaska has great trails to enjoy and as the snow melts and school ends, it’s a good time to enjoy the amazing trails that surround us. Chugach State Park alone offers more than 280 miles of trails right in our backyard. The Mat-Su region features more than 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 Trails is cataloging trail resources on its website to both keep people safe and keep them active. Alaska’s trails improve our physical and mental health, boost our economy and strengthen our community – and that’s even more important during COVID-19 restrictions.
With the volunteer events on hold, Alaska Trails is excited to announce that we are hiring a trail crew for the summer. This new crew will begin work on the Little O’Malley Peak trail in Chugach State Park. This is a new and exciting step for Alaska Trails. While it will have many challenges, the small nature of the trail crew has much simpler logistics to manage than the typical large volunteer events. We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that their workplace conditions are safe and healthy. In May, Alaska Trails staff will be finalizing the layout for the Little O’Malley Peak trail. We are excited to be collaborating with the Chugach Park Fund (CPF) on this exciting project. CPF has so far raised more than $30,000, including numerous individual donations, an $11,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation and a donation of $2,500 from GCI. The project will reroute this popular trail and help celebrate the park’s 50th anniversary. We are also grateful to the Anchorage Trail Care Fund and REI for their financial support of this project.
As you have no doubt noticed, trail use is on the rise. Parking lots are full. Trailheads are crowded. Please take care to keep you and your loved ones safe. Social distancing is still a priority. Wear a mask at the parking lot and trailhead and keep it handy. Stay at least six feet away from other trail users who aren’t in your household. This will mean stopping, yielding and getting off the trail when necessary. And above all – be kind. We are all in this together. Trails are keeping us sane, so let’s all work to keep each other safe so we can continue to enjoy them.
Steve Cleary is executive director of Alaska Trails. More information can be found at the Alaska Trails website: www.alaska-trails.org
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