Snow removal rattles skiers, mushers

Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Nordic skiers who hit the Chester Creek Trail through the heart of the city got a ski-stalling surprise recently.

All the mid-December snow was gone -- plowed away -- from near Lake Otis Parkway to near the Seward Highway.

Officials with the Alaska Sled Dog and Racing Association and the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage were shocked. The sled dog association uses this stretch of trail as part of the route for the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race in February, and the ski club uses it as part of the Tour of Anchorage in March.

Both events depend on having a trail with a solid snow cover.

Organizers had thought the Dec. 17 accumulation of 5 or 6 inches -- the first significant snowfall of the year -- would move the trail closer to conditions needed for use by skiers and mushers.

Little did they know that the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility would plow the trail to gain access to sewer line clean-out stations in a trunk line that runs through the Chester Creek greenbelt.

News of the plowing simply startled some.

''Oh, you're kidding,'' said Pete Eberhardt, tour trail coordinator for the ski club. ''That is too weird. We finally get some snow and what do they do, they screw it up?''

Well, plow it up at least.

''We're doing a complete cleaning of the Chester Creek trunk'' from Lake Otis to Westchester Lagoon, said Brian Crewdson, assistant general manager for the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility.

To get at the trunk line, AWWU needs to drive heavy trucks along the greenbelt trail.

To eliminate any chance of those trucks getting stuck, the snow is being scraped off, right down to the pavement.

The Lake Otis-to-Seward trail clearing could be just the beginning, Crewdson said.

''It sounds like it's highly likely. ... We will be disturbing the whole trail down to the (Westchester) lagoon,'' he said.

That would remove what little snow has fallen from about three miles of the tour trail, and about a mile and a half of the Rondy Trail. Mark Moderow of the sled dog association said nobody mentioned any of this to the dog drivers.

Apparently the needs of snow-oriented organizations simply were overlooked. Crewdson said he planned to try to remedy that by walking the unplowed remainder of the trail with officials from the city's Parks and Recreation Department to figure out if there is a way to do the sewer work without plowing up the snow.

AWWU has good intentions, Crewdson said, and had good intentions in holding off the sewer-line cleaning until this time of the year.

''We waited until winter so the ground could be frozen enough'' to support heavy equipment, he said. ''We didn't want to damage the asphalt.''

A popular ski trail through the six or seven months of Anchorage winter, the paved Chester Creek trail is equally popular with cyclists, runners, Rollerbladers and walkers through the other five or six months of the year.


(Distributed by The Associated Press)

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