State takes over extension of Anchorage coastal trail

Posted: Friday, December 22, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three state agencies are taking over development of a planned 12-mile extension of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail from Kincaid Park to Potter Marsh, Gov. Tony Knowles announced Thursday.

An environmental analysis of potential routes that generally hug the coastline will begin next month, said Pat Pourchot, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Previously considered alignments that would have taken the trail along highways miles from the coast are no longer part of the project.

''Those have been dropped as Coastal Trail alternatives, but most of them still appear in the municipality's trails plan,'' Pourchot said. Those trails may be built separately.

City and state planners have been working on the trail extension since late 1997. Initially, they said they hoped to settle on a route by the end of 1998.

But some South Anchorage residents, including homeowners who own bluff property, strongly objected to locating the new trail there. State biologists said a heavily used trail could damage a marshy habitat used by animals and migrating waterfowl. The project became mired in a battle between trail users who wanted a coastal route and those who said money would be better spent building trails in neighborhoods.

Knowles, who is on record supporting a shoreline route, said in a written statement Thursday that transferring oversight, along with better coordination among the state agencies, ''should ensure that the project stays on schedule.''

The project will be managed by the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which has been working on it with city planners for three years.

Knowles and Mayor George Wuerch have discussed transferring the trail extension to the state, and Wuerch agreed in concept, said spokesman Dennis Fradley. But Wuerch hasn't seen the state's plan in writing yet and won't sign off on it until he does, Fradley said.

Jim Posey, the city's director of cultural and recreational services, said he will continue to be involved.

As mayor of Anchorage from 1981 through 1987, Knowles championed construction of the existing trail, which runs about 11 miles from Second Avenue downtown to the ski chalet in Kincaid Park and quickly became one of the city's most popular recreational venues. It was named for him days before he left office.

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