State backs coastal extension of trail

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state is backing the so-called orange route that would mostly follow the coast to extend the popular Tony Knowles Coastal Trail south of the city.

The main modification to the planned extension from Kincaid Park to Potter Marsh would be a summer detour to avoid one narrow stretch of shoreline marsh, Gov. Tony Knowles said Monday after speaking to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

The trail runs from downtown to Kincaid Park. Plans to extend it 13 to 16 miles south have been stalled over differences on what would be the best route.

The extension is estimated to cost $30 million, about 90 percent of it federal funds designated for Anchorage's roads and trails.

The state is finishing a draft environmental impact statement for the Federal Highway Administration. Knowles said the report says the coastal route is the best of five alternatives studied.

The state reached its recommendation for a modified coastal route after a consultant produced a new analysis of which areas are most important for animals and birds, said Pat Pourchot, state commissioner of natural resources.

The federal government is expected to release the report early next month. After that, people will have at least a month to comment before the final decision. Knowles said the trail route should be decided by Nov. 30.

Hundreds of Anchorage residents have spoken out on the route question in petitions, meetings and individual written comments.

Some offered concerns about disturbing wildlife, some worried about losing privacy in their neighborhoods and lobbied for a route away from the coast. Many urged planners to follow the shore as closely as possible.

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