Before the Sterling Highway, the Kenai Peninsula was crisscrossed with trails running through the woods and over the hills. And there were favorite spots along the river and beaches, perfect for watching wildlife and picnicking.
Peninsula residents continue to be drawn to those areas. And thanks to $42,060 from Trails and Recreational Access for Alaska -- TRAAK -- seven of those areas, out of 33 sites recognized statewide, will get a little extra attention.
A news release issued Wednesday by the office of Gov. Tony Knowles listed the following peninsula activities and recipients:
n Caribou Hills Trail Grooming, Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers Snowmachine Club, $30,000;
n Child Snowmobile Awareness Safety Course, Kenai Peninsula Safekids Coalition, $6,000;
n Deep Creek Beach Interpretive Site, State Parks Coastal District, $20,500;
n Otterbahn Trail, city of Seldovia, $21,560;
n Rocky Ridge Trail, city of Seldovia, $5,660;
n Seward Highway Trail 12 Trail System Improvements, Seward Nordic Ski Club, $19,400; and
n Winter Trail Grooming, Peninsula Sled Dog Racing Association, $2,380.
According to Knowles' Press Secretary Bob King, the grants include federal monies distributed through the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. The amount organizations are required to match varies, but King said it is usually 10 percent of the grant.
With 200 miles of trails in the Caribou Hills, the $30,000 definitely will be put to use by the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers Snowmachine Club.
"As of today, we're sitting with probably $70,000 worth of equipment for grooming," said club spokesperson Doug Blossom. "And I think we spend $20,000 a year just on fuel and maintenance to (groom the trails). We don't pay our operators. They're all volunteers."
Blossom said the club's membership is approximately 300, including many family memberships. This winter's lack of snow at lower elevations hasn't prevented it from accumulating elsewhere.
"We had snow in the hills up there earlier than down here," Blossom said. "We just couldn't get from here to there and had to go out Oilwell (Road) to get to it. Every year's different, and people are working at it all the time. As long as we've got volunteers, we keep at it."
The grant for Peninsula Sled Dog Racing Association also is earmarked for trail grooming, specifically the existing winter loop trails south of the Kenai River and east of the Sterling Highway.
Conducting and promoting classes in safe snowmobile practices for children and parents and providing helmets at a reduced cost is how the Kenai Peninsula Safekids Coalition's $6,000 will be used.
Visitors to Deep Creek State Recreation Area will be welcomed with a new wetlands boardwalk, gazebo and signs with interpretive and educational information, thanks to the grant of $20,500.
"The construction will probably start as soon as we have good weather," said Jack Sinclair, district ranger, of the project that has a one-year time line for completion.
"Coastal parks are used by a majority of Alaska residents who come for the weekend or after work to fish, picnic or just enjoy the beaches," Sinclair said. "They're a major asset to the communities and the people of that area."
Sinclair said getting the TRAAK grants has become highly competitive. Receiving one is, in large part, due to efforts of local residents who continue to enjoy and share with others a favorite area.
"We feel fortunate to have qualified for it," he said. "It took a lot of support from community members. That grant would not have been given to us without a number of supporting individuals and groups."
Knowles also underlined the importance of community involvement.
"These individual grants may be small, but they support projects that make big differences in daily lives of Alaska families," his statement reads. "The fact that trail enthusiasts from around the state are willing to work so hard for these grants and provide the required matching money and labor to complete their projects is a testament to Alaskans' great outdoor spirit and love for trails."
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