With great weather for September, more people are taking advantage of local trails. There are hundreds of public trails in the Fairbanks North Star Borough on borough and state land. To help hikers, bikers and ATV users find them, the borough has started a Trails Challenge.
The borough is pretty big, and there are so many trails of different lengths and difficulties. Some are a lunchtime walk, some are a weekend backpack trip.
“It can still seem kinda hard for people to go and find them, or to have a reason to get out and do them, or to feel comfortable about where they are going.”
Bryant Wright is the Parks and Recreation Department’s Trails Coordinator. He says the Trails Challenge was invented as a way to help familiarize users with the possibilities.
“We wanted to encourage people to get out, and make it, make it a little more fun than just your typical outing on the trails. So we came up with this scavenger hunt idea.”
It works like this. The Trails office hand picks a variety of trails, some short, some long, some easy, some not, some for horses, ATVs or bicycles, and all for walkers. They write descriptions and publish maps and make special signs for each trail in the challenge.
“And we went and hid them along the trails, and said, ‘hey, these are out there; go and find them. Prove you made it. Take a picture. Find as many as you can and kinda get those bragging rights.”
This summer’s list has 12 trails on it from a flat 1K loop at the dog park, to the 58-mile Circle-to-Fairbanks Historic trail. The Trails office has been creating the challenge since 2016, and it has grown.
“As of the beginning of September, we have a little more than 300 participants on our new website: Parks.FNSB.us.”
And Wright says he expects a lot more to register before this year’s summer challenge ends on September 30. He knows more folks have been taking up the challenge even if they haven’t signed in.
On the challenge social media pages are pictures of the individuals, families, and friends, standing in front of the trail signs. If users get to at least 10 of the selected trails, they are eligible for prizes.
Of course no one has to enter the challenge to use the trails, although one on this year’s list is on military land, and requires a quick, on-line recreation permit from the Army.
Wright says the office has gotten calls and emails from hikers who discovered something new.
“It’s music to our ears to hear that folks who have been exploring the outdoors around Fairbanks for many years, even decades, are finding places they didn’t know existed.”
Wright says feedback from users has helped improve or repair trails, and has targeted grant applications for the work.
The summer signs will be taken down at the end of this month and re-labeled for a new selection of trails for winter. Those signs will go up in December for hikers, skiers and snowmachiners.
The awards ceremony is October 5th at the musical playground at Tanana Lakes Park.