Borough needs a trails coordinator

We all hate it, but its forced upon us. Any local political issues we should know about ??

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Borough needs a trails coordinator

#1 Post by Darrell » Wed May 02, 2007 6:17 am

Borough needs a trails coordinator
By Eric Troyer
Published May 2, 2007

Trail advocates have a chance to speak up for trails at this Thursday’s public hearing on the Fairbanks North Star Borough budget. Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker has included a half-time trails coordinator in his proposed budget. But that position isn’t guaranteed unless the assembly approves it. Assembly members need to hear from trail users that the position is important. In fact, they need to hear that the position should be full time. Considering how important trails are to Fairbanks and how many trails-related issues need to be addressed, a full-time trails coordinator position is easily justified.

Trail use is a big part of life for many borough residents. There are nearly 20 resident groups dedicated to activities that take place partly or solely on trails. These activities include walking, running, biking, skiing, snowmachining, ATV riding, horseback riding, mushing and more. These resident groups offer people a way to relax and enjoy the outdoors while bonding with others of like interests. For many people, access to trails is a major part of their quality of life. These residents and activities deserve support just as much as the users of other local recreational facilities, such as the Big Dipper Ice Arena, Mary Siah Recreation Center, and soccer and softball fields.

Some formal trail systems, particularly the Birch Hill Recreation Area, have nice facilities, but these trails are just a small part of all the trails in the borough, and they are often limited to a certain group of users, especially in winter. Multi-use trails are almost always outside of these formal trail systems. One of the advantages of trails outside formal trail systems is that they require very low maintenance.

Trails are a strong selling point for our community. Trail user groups and local trails offer new residents a way to meet people. A recent nationwide survey done by the National Association of Homebuilders showed that walking and jogging trails are the top amenity desired by prospective homebuyers. Local real estate ads often advertise proximity to trails as a plus. At least some local developers understand the importance of trails. Two new subdivisions are being developed that will include new trails so that residents can access local trails.

Trails help keep our citizens active. With so much in the news recently about the nationwide increase in obesity, providing ways to keep people active is even more important. People even commute using trails. Besides physical health, trails are also good for mental health, especially in winter when we try to stave off cabin fever.

The advantages of trails are many, but why do we need a borough trails coordinator?

The most important reason is that we are losing access to trails. Fairbanks is growing. Trails that have been around for years are starting to be lost to public use. The borough has a Comprehensive Recreational Trails Plan that helps protect trails when land is developed. However, many trails are still not on the plan. A trails coordinator can help get more trails on the plan. If and when a gas line is built, Fairbanks will see a development boom. Getting trails issued resolved sooner will help avoid possible disputes in the future.

A trail coordinator would also be a focal point for local government and volunteer efforts. The borough Planning Department and Parks and Recreation Department have done an admirable job in recent years to protect local trails, but a trails coordinator could better focus those efforts. Local trail user groups are also spending many, many volunteer hours to protect and maintain local trails. Among other things, a trail coordinator could help focus those volunteer efforts.

If you agree that a trail coordinator position is justified, then please speak out. Attend Thursday’s assembly meeting and offer your comments. If you can’t make the meeting, then let the assembly members know how you feel by calling them or writing a letter or e-mail. Contact information for assembly members can be found at the borough Web site ( Another way to act is to send a letter to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner by mail (P.O. Box 70710, Fairbanks, AK 99707) or by e-mail ( Letters to the editor must be no more than 350 words, and include your full name, day and evening phone numbers, and a physical address.

The borough used to have a trails position, but it was cut several years ago. Not enough people spoke in favor of keeping it. Let’s not make the same mistake this time.

Eric Troyer is editor of the Interior Trails Quarterly and the statewide Alaska Trails e-newsletter. He is also vice president of the Interior Trails Preservation Coalition and a member of several local trail-user groups.

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#2 Post by paulneva » Wed May 02, 2007 10:44 pm

Everyone not going to the meeting ought to send in something. This is what I sent:

Subject: Trails


I understand that the Borough is about to debate the hiring of a trails coordinator. Trails are really important to a lot of us who live here. They are our access to the great outdoors in and around the Borough, particularly in the winter. Every winter, trails that have been used for decades by mushers, skiers and snowmachiners are being lost forever. We need someone at the Borough to try to reverse this.

Paul S. Renschen

3193 Edby Rd.
Fairbanks AK 99709


Paul S. Renschen

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new trail boss

#3 Post by Darrell » Wed May 30, 2007 3:35 am

A new trail boss
Published May 30, 2007

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly made a good decision last week when it approved funding for the new position of full-time trails coordinator. Anyone who has lived in the Fairbanks borough for even a short period of time knows that trails are a big part of life here.

ATV’ers, skiers, mushers, horse riders, cyclists, runners, walkers — those user groups and others all have an interest in the trails that thread throughout the borough. Having a trails coordinator will allow the borough to work toward incorporating more trails into the borough’s Comprehensive Trails Plan.

Adding the position had obvious public support. And it’s no wonder given the increase in trail conflicts that appears, anecdotally, to be occurring. The trails coordinator won’t be able to grant government protection to a trail, however. But the coordinator will be able to help add more trails to the master trails plan, a move that could help protect those trails in the future.
More and more it seems that people are wanting trails protected. That’s due in part to the perception that people are increasingly buying property and blocking off trails that have been in use for quite some time. That sometimes leads to nasty, testy exchanges.

Expanding and further formalizing a trails system in the borough is a smart move. And it’s one that reflects the quality of life here.

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