OPINION: We’re making Chugach State Park trails better. Here’s how you can help.

We’ve put away our skis and snowshoes, started eyeing skinnier-tired bikes, and are trying to remember where we put our hiking boots. Yes, summer is coming soon, and those longer, warmer days will bring hundreds of thousands of people to Chugach State Park.

Locals and out-of-towners alike will come to enjoy some of the 280 miles of trail the park offers. Some aim for just a parking lot view of the city or will check the box by going up Flattop. Others will ride a bike or take a longer adventure to an alpine lake in the park’s backcountry. All told, more than 1.5 million people will visit the park this year.

And, depending on our route, we’ll probably get muddy feet or have to push through alder thickets. While our park has about 280 miles of trail across nearly a half-million acres, chronic underinvestment in maintaining this public recreational and economic treasure means there are just 10 employees; two of whom (1.6 full-time-equivalent positions, if you’re picky) focus on trail maintenance. The other employees handle such tasks as the park’s search and rescue, law enforcement, support for the park’s full-time volunteers and maintenance of 80-plus restrooms, 25 trailheads and parking areas, and eight public-use cabins. The park has a maintenance backlog of more than $7 million, and roughly half of its trail miles have significant safety or resource damage issues.

So where’s the bright spot?

Since 2016, the Chugach Park Fund has raised nearly $600,000 in private donations to help maintain and improve Chugach State Park’s trails. Last summer, we funded the rebuilding of about three miles of the South Fork of Eagle River Trail, adding boardwalks and re-routing the old, muddy trail to higher ground.

This summer, through foundation, corporate and individual giving, we expect to fund work by an Alaska Trails crew to fix long, muddy sections of the trail accessing Hidden Lake and Ship Lake Pass, plus brushing near the South Fork of Eagle River, drainage work on the Anchorage Hillside trails plus replacing old boardwalk. Thanks to a generous donation from ConocoPhillips Alaska, we’ll do the design and construction estimates for future repairs to trails in the Williwaw Lakes and Stuckagain Heights/Wolverine Bowl area. We’ll also host seven volunteer trail work events, the first of which is on June 22. To sign up for one of those volunteer events, go to Alaska Trails’ website.

Chugach Park Fund expects its fundraising and work will be needed for many years to come. If you, your friends or visitors enjoy the park, we invite you to join the effort through volunteering or donating as you’re able through the donation portal at the Alaska Community Foundation’s website. See you in the park!


Judy Caminer, Claire LeClare, John Quinley, Charlotte Levy, Haley Johnston, Walt Wrede, Kyle Shedd and Tyndall Ellis are volunteer board members for Chugach Park Fund.

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