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Trails Plan Looking for Public Opinion

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FNSB

It has been about 15 years since the comprehensive plan for the hundreds of trails in the Fairbanks North Star Borough was updated. In that time, more formal trails have been developed and more different kinds of uses like skijoring and fatbiking have become popular. Now the borough’s Trail Advisory Commission is starting to update the Comprehensive Trail Plan, and wants the public to come to its meetings this Wednesday and next Monday nights.

Some trails within the borough limits get very heavy use by thousands of hikers, joggers, skiers, dogmushers, horseback riders, bicyclists and motorized users on ATVs and snowmachines. The original Trails Plan was adopted in 1985 to guide the protection and management of local trails – it was last updated in 2006.

Taryn Oleson-Yelle is the lead planner for R&M Consultants, Inc., the engineering and planning contractors who will get public input and draw up the revised plan with the Trails Advisory Commission.

“I love trails; that’s a huge reason I moved to Alaska in the first place, and so, the ability to work with you who have such investment in good trails, good environmental management and user-friendliness is really exciting.”

Oleson-Yelle and Project Manager Van Le (VAHN like fawn LEE like see) met online with the Trails Advisory Commission two weeks ago. They stepped commissioners through the planning process that will take most of this year. It is not just to update the borough’s trail inventory but revise the policies for trail maintenance and oversight.

The 2006 Plan identified only 48 recreational trails on borough land, state or federal land, or neighborhood trail systems. The new walking and ski trails at Tanana Lakes Park, Chena River Park, and Skyline Park aren’t in it. The walking paths at the Peat Ponds off Goldstream Valley Road or the ones at Chinook Conservation Park, developed by the Interior Alaska Land Trust aren’t in it. The mountain bike tracks on Ester Dome, developed by the Fairbanks Cycle Club aren’t in it. The ski trails developed by Goldstream Sports aren’t in it. The hunting and mushing trails in the Peede Road Open Space area aren’t in it. You get the picture.

Oleson-Yelle says a big part of the planning process is public input.

“Because this plan is only as good as the people who support it, and as strong as the implementation  strategies that are developed through it.”

R and M Consultants are gathering data and comparing all the other strategic land plans in the borough. There will be a survey and website, but the planners want to hear directly at two meetings this week and next.

On Wednesday evening, a work session will focus on trails and trail systems West and North of the Steese Highway, including Fairbanks, Chena Ridge, Goldstream, Ester, Cripple Creek, College Road, Farmer’s Loop Road, Murphy Dome, and the Elliott Highway.

There is an agenda with a Zoom link on this webpage: FNSBTrailsPlan.com.

Next Monday, March 1, a worksession will focus East and South of the Steese Highway, including trails in North Pole, off Badger Road, Ft. Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base, Moose Creek, Salcha, Harding and Birch Lakes, Steele Creek, Chena Hot Springs Road, Two Rivers, Pleasant Valley, and Chatanika.

This update process is being funded by a federal grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment. The money is actually coming from the Department of Defense to counteract the impact of the military programs in the borough. Lots of military members use the trails on post and base for training, but also for recreation.

R and M Consultants will be contacting trail using groups and holding public workshops in April and July, with a goal of having a draft plan complete by October 15.