More than 100 people showed up at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge last Saturday to take part in the dedication of the new Centennial Trail.
The hiking trail was constructed as part of the commemoration of the centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge System that began in 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt established a refuge in Florida to protect the brown pelican.
Spurring off the .75 mile Keen Eye Nature Trail, the Centennial Trail is 2.90 miles in length and winds thorough dense sections of birch and aspen, but periodically opens up to scenic expanses of the Kenai Mountains to the southeast and passes two small ponds along the way.
"We looked for some nice views while laying it out. We thought it would be nice to include those ponds for viewing loons, eagles and moose," said volunteer coordinator Dave Kenagy, who, along with a few other rangers, did the reconnaissance and some of the labor to establish the trail.
The Youth Conservation Corps continued where Kenagy left off, carrying out much of the grunt work to clear roots, stumps and deadfall from the trail.
"It's a nice easy hike," said refuge manager Robin West.
Although not wheelchair accessible like the Keen Eye Trail, the Centennial Trail was designed to be a grade that was easy enough for almost anyone to do.
West informally greeted the crowd that had come to be the first ones in the community to hike the trail. He explained the trail was made not only as part of the centennial celebration, but also to give another trail to the community to use for exercise and wildlife viewing.
"It's an in-town hike that still goes through he woods," West said.
Most of the people who spent the afternoon walking the trail were pleased with it.
Map courtesy of Kenai Wildlife National Refuge
"I thought it was wonderful," said Mary Gilbert of Anchorage.
She was down visiting friends and heard about the trail dedication and decided to see for herself what it was like.
"Dedicating it during fall was a perfect choice. It was so nice to have golden leaves falling on me as I hiked. I think this trail should be in the book, '55 Ways to the Wilderness.' I'll definitely come back and do it again," Gilbert said.
"I thought it was great," said Glenna Swearingen of Kenai. "I've never hiked a day in my life but decided to do it as part of the (CPGH) 10,000 steps program. It sure beat walking on a treadmill."
In addition to the trail dedication, a time capsule was buried at the trail head to further commemorate the event.
"The contents of the capsule were primarily staff contributions, mostly things relating to their work," West said. "We made a video explaining what each thing we put in was and why we were contributing it. We buried the video in the capsule, as well."
He said he wasn't sure what technology would be available that far into the future, but he hoped the next generation would retain some way of being able to watch the video.
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