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Proposed ordinance flips 1980s trail protection


A proposal to change trail easements on future subdivisions is before the borough assembly in Fairbanks Thursday, Jan. 12. Sponsors want to lift a requirement that trails be protected on private lands that get sold in the future. Public hearing begins at 7:00 p.m.

The first thing Tammie Wilson wants residents to know is that her proposal will not affect existing trails.

“That's where the biggest misunderstanding is, is that we're somehow giving back dedicated easements. This has nothing to do with that,” Wilson said.

The proposal is about category A and B trails: A trails have “regional or statewide significance,” like ski trails at Birch Hill, the Yukon Quest mushing trail or Equinox Marathon running trail, and Category B trails have “community-wide significance” such as those in the Isberg, Goldstream, or Moose Creek recreation areas.

The ordinance number 2022 – 65 was introduced by Wilson and Assembly member Jimi Cash, who explained it at last week’s Assembly worksession.

 “My intention was for property owners to have the initial say on whether or not an easement is put on their land,” Cash said.

Cash said he became aware of concerns in November when the Assembly began reviewing the draft of the borough’s Comprehensive Trails Plan.

“I became aware that there is current code that says that when a property goes up to subdivision, if it has a trail on it, that the platting board shall designate a trail easement. So, what this ordinance does is it makes it to where on Category A and B trails, the platting board removes that word, shall, and puts may require a dedicated easement, um, to, with adopted Comprehensive Trail Plan if, if the property owner consents,” Cash said.
Cash said he wanted to change the law before the Assembly again takes up approval of The Comprehensive Trails Plan, scheduled for later in February.

The Trails Advisory Commission has been working the past two years with citizens to update the Trails Plan, first written in 1985.

Kellen Spillman, the Director of Community Planning, explained that it was citizen concerns about trails that created the existing code that year.

“ There were a fair amount of folks in the early 1980s in Fairbanks who were concerned about their trail systems disappearing because of subdivision activity. The borough put together a big public process, the first borough trails plan, and it was adopted in 1985. That same year, the borough subdivision code was amended, that said, if you had a connection shown on your property, it would be dedicated,” Spillman said.

Wilson says she’s concerned about trail connections that have not happened yet. She said future easements are in the Trails Plan that go between existing trails.

“What they're (the Trails Advisory Commission) trying to do is they're trying to get trails to connect, and some have gone through mental health trust land. Some go through state property, some go through private property. Well, basically the A or B trail ends, and then there's some acreage, and then it starts up again,” Wilson said.

Wilson says she would like the Trails Advisory Commission to consult with property owners who might have those connections, now, and not wait until they subdivide. Spillman explained that most of them have been part of the Trails Plan update process.

“The vast majority of the trail connections on private property right now are established trails, so the majority of the private property owners would likely have an idea that there is an existing established trail on their property. It's also shown in the trail plan,” Spillman said.

Mayor Bryce Ward gave the Assembly a memo in December saying he would prefer the ordinance go to the Platting Board for an official recommendation or at least to the Trails Advisory Commission before being taken up by the Assembly.

Assemblymember Aaron Lojewski has proposed a substitute ordinancethat gives a financial incentive to property owners who go ahead and dedicate an easement when they subdivide their land. Lojewski says he will bring up other amendments to the proposal on Thursday evening.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.