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Commission flags troublesome trail issues

Posted: Monday, March 27, 2000

On March 2, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Trails Commission completed a report for the borough administration, the borough planning commission and the borough assembly. Here are some of the priority recommendations from the report:

Clam Gulch Trail

The commission wants to move the trailhead for the popular snowmachine route across the Sterling Highway so riders would not need to cross the road. The land where the trail begins belongs to the University of Alaska. The commission recommends the borough discuss this issue with the university to solve easement and trailhead problems.

Iditarod National Historic Trail

The trail is the only federally-designated National Historic Trail in the state and one of only 16 in the nation designated a Millennium Trail in 1999.

Parts of the original Gold Rush trail from Seward to the Interior now are under the Seward Highway or the Alaska Railroad tracks. An alternative public route is being developed, and part of the trail already has been rebuilt.

An organization called the Seward Iditarod Trail Blazers wants to complete the trail from Seward to Girdwood by 2008, with management support from the Chugach National Forest.

The trails commission recommends the borough promote the fact the famous trail begins at Seward and seek support from Alaska's Congressional delegation to complete the trail's restoration.

Caribou Hills

"Of all the regions in the borough, the Caribou Hills region is most in need of a comprehensive transportation plan," according to the report.

It cites growing use, lack of legal easements, off-road vehicle damage to salmon streams and a "complex checkerboard of land ownership."

The trails commission recommends the borough pursue funding for a transportation plan for the area.

"This is a major undertaking that will require significant funding," it said.

Access requirements

"To avoid future problems associated with access to private land across inadequate or inappropriate routes, the trails commission recommends that the borough subdivision regulations be changed to require legal, constructible, public access to subdivisions, not only within the subdivision," the report states.

Landowner protection

The commission recommends the borough lobby for improvements to the Alaska's Recreational Use Statute, calling it one of the nation's weakest in protecting private landowners from liability for uninvited and uncompensated recreational uses on their property.

HEAD:Trails Commission maps out borough needs

BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Trails Commission is offering backcountry recreationists a new road map for avoiding trespass, land damage and other trail use conflicts.

The advisory commission has issued a report to the borough outlining its activities and recommendations. Areas of particular concern highlighted include the Clam Gulch Trail, Caribou Hills and the Iditarod Trail near Seward.

"There is quite a bit going on," said Margaret Spahn, who serves as the commission's coordinator under contract with the borough.

The trails commission deals with public use issues on borough land and on some state land through cooperative projects with state agencies. It only considers private property when the landowner invites the commission's input. Access is a priority problem, she said.

"Just because a trail is on public land doesn't mean it is protected or the public has legal access," she said.

The commission advises landowners, hikers and private user groups such as snowmachine, ski, historical and other clubs pursuing outdoor recreation on borough lands. It helps them resolve conflicts, work together and win grant funding to improve trails they use.

Commission members have been documenting existing trails and cleaning up related legal details such as easements.

Two years ago, the group began a trails inventory. Last year, it began mapping trails in a partnership with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service using new technology.

"The borough's trail inventory is far from complete and needs to be continued," the report reads. "Specifically, the borough needs accurate information regarding the location of routes used by the general public. GPS (Global Positioning System) mapping of trails is helping to fill this need."

The report includes suggested items for a comprehensive "needs list" of trails and public access projects. The list is based on work with trail user groups and communities. Borough endorsement of projects on the list may help nonprofit organizations obtain grants and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facil-ities effectively incorporate trailheads and pedestrian access while designing roadways, according to the report.

The trails commission is an advisory body with nine members, two each from four geographic regions of the peninsula and one from the borough planning department.

Its goal is to develop and expand access to recreational trails, Spahn said.

The group's report will be presented to the Borough Planning Commission at its meeting today in Homer at the Land's End Resort at 7 p.m.

It also will be on the agenda when the trails commission meets in Seward on April 6 at 7 p.m. at Seward City Hall, and when the borough assembly meets April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Borough Building in Soldotna.

All the meetings are open to the public, and anyone who wants a copy of the trails commission report can get one from the borough's planning department.



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