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Trail fixes under way

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2010

With winter on the way, trail refurbishing will begin on a series of Cooper Landing ski trails once white flakes coat the ground.

Alaska Department of Natural Resources State Trails Coordinator Bill Luck said that the project will groom eight miles of ski lanes that connect to 100 miles of existing trail. The Cooper Landing Community Club, which received close to $19,000 in department grants for the projects, has a volunteer groomer who will run a compactor-equipped snowmobile through the corridors.

After approximately 21 inches of snowfall sticks, the volunteer will run the snowmobile over the surface to create tracks. The department estimates that 8,000 skiers use the area, including the disabled.

Luck said that the project received a grant, in part, because the ski trails run through the Russian River and Quartz Creek campgrounds. Before the campgrounds were only used during the warmer seasons, but the state funds will allow year-round use.

In addition to Cooper Landing project, the department approved grants for the Pratt Museum and the Homer Snomads Inc. trail projects.

The museum received $50,000 to add a third of a mile of new trail, most of which will meet American Disability Act standards, remove fallen trees and rehabilitate the existing system.

According to the project's description, the museum will reduce trail grading and cross slope to 5 percent or less, remove obstacles larger than 2 inches, ensure a minimum the trail width of 6 feet and clearance of 4 feet. Installing boardwalks and surfacing trails with gravel will help the trail system meet ADA standards, according to the museum's Special Projects Coordinator Erik Pullman.

"There are a lot of small details that will make the trails up to those standards," he said.

The education department uses the hiking trail system for nature exploration programs. Some of the grant will go toward rehabilitating its amphitheater, which the coordinator said hosts nature talks.

Pullman said that its log benches have rotted over the years and require new wood.

"We try to keep that area as rustic as possible," he said.

The museums Facing the Elements art installations, placed along the trails, have deteriorated to the point that they don't resemble their original artwork, according to Pullman. That is part of the installation's attraction though.

"Part of the allure for artists is to watch the artwork change over time," he said.

Luck said that the work will begin next summer.

A third Peninsula project, for the Caribou Hills trails, has received a total of nearly $47,000, but may not see completion for years.

Luck said that the project is stuck in a permitting bog because the trail cuts through a handful of different properties. His office has set aside the funds, but can't turn them over until the Snomads, which are managing the project, have the permits in hand. The Army Corps of Engineers may be asked to assess the environmental impact of the trail construction, as well, said Luck.

"There's a significant amount of community support," according to the coordinator. "The trouble with this program is making sure everything is done legally."

Snomad President Dave Mastolier said that some of the work is already done.

The 2-acre trailhead loading area is nearly complete. Dog mushers, hikers, skiers and snowmobilers use the trails, according to the president. Before the gravel parking lot, users had to unload their equipment on the roadside. Luck said that the state funds will be put toward hardening 17 miles of trail for motorized use. Guidance signs will be installed along that segment. Another 11 miles will be reconstructed, he said.

Tony Cella can be reached at tony.cella@peninsulaclarion.com.



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