BETHEL (AP) -- Every winter high winds blow down markers made of willow branches and reflective tape that lead to tundra villages, and every winter somebody dies because they lose their way.
But now state money will be used to help buy more permanent markers.
The state Department of Transportation will fund trail marking from Bethel to Atmautluak, Kasigluk and Nunapitchuk to help promote safety, according to Katrina Moss, Kuskokwim area planner for the DOT in Anchorage.
''For so long, people have been asking DOT for these trails. I am happy that they are finally recognizing our snowmachine trails as a transportation system,'' said Peter Atchak, chairman of Bethel Search and Rescue.
A portion of the $250,000 for trails may be available by October, according to Moss. Planners will then have to obtain a series of permits and hold public meetings on how best to use the money, she said.
Plywood dowel cores to construct tripod trail markers will be purchased by the department and barged to Bethel in the fall. Construction of the trails will probably begin next winter, said Butch Douthit, project manager for DOT.
Plywood also will be purchased instead of the translucent rebar tubes used in previous years for trail marking projects in the coastal villages of Scammon Bay, Hooper Bay, Chevak, Newtok, Tununak and Nightmute, according to Moss.
The plastic tubes were not capped and some split and froze over time, Moss said. The plastic markers were also not as visible from the air, she said.
The wood tripods, which will be set up anywhere from 500 feet to 100 feet apart, will be just over 2 inches wide and 8 inches tall. Similar material was used to mark trails in Dillingham last winter.
''We have a lot of optimism that they will work out,'' Douhit said.
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