Alaska Long Trail Funds Awaiting Gov’s Decision

By YERETH ROSEN
Alaska Beacon
    Alaska lawmakers approved $3.7 million in funding for nine projects that are part of an integrated trail system that proponents hope will rival the Appalachian Trail on the East Coast and the Pacific Crest Trail on the West Coast.
    Currently called the Alaska Long Trail — though it may be renamed in the future — the system would cover more than 500 miles from Fairbanks in Interior Alaska to the Gulf of Alaska coastline on the Kenai Peninsula. It would connect existing trails within federal, state and municipal land into a network that could be traveled without interruption.
    The Alaska Long Trail projects included in the coming fiscal year’s capital budget were among a list of 21, for which the costs would total $20.3 million, that advocates requested at the start of this year’s legislative session. Advocates for those projects are with Alaska Trails, a nonprofit organization, and several partner organizations.
    All of the projects that won legislative funding for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1, are located in the Municipality of Anchorage. They are spread throughout the municipality, from Peters Creek in the north to Girdwood in the south.
    The biggest Alaska Long Trail project approved by lawmakers would put just over $1 million toward a link between existing trails to create an uninterrupted 25-mile connection between Turnagain Arm and the northern area of Anchorage. Another high-profile project would devote $500,000 to trail improvements on Anchorage’s Flattop Mountain, the state’s most-climbed peak. It is the site of summertime crowds, but some deteriorating trail conditions pose safety hazards to hikers.
    Whether Gov. Mike Dunleavy will approve the projects is yet unknown. The governor, who has the power to make line-item budget vetoes, just received the budget on Wednesday and still needs time to review it, said spokesperson Jeff Turner. The governor’s decisions are due on June 28, Turner said.
    Dunleavy in 2022 vetoed $10.5 million in Alaska Long Trail funding that lawmakers had approved for the 2023 fiscal year. That left seven projects with $4.22 million in funding in that year’s budget.
    For the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, the state budget included over $1.43 million for three Alaska Long Trail projects in Chugach State Park, which lies within the Municipality of Anchorage.
    The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, meanwhile, is seeking public input for a feasibility study to consider whether the Alaska Long Trail should be added to the inventory of designated national scenic trails. There are currently 11 officially designated national scenic trails, ranging in length from the 235-mile New England Trail to the 4,600-mile North Country Trail that wends through the Great Lakes region.
    Public meetings were held in April, and three online sessions are scheduled this month, on June 11, 13 and 27, the BLM said.
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https://alaskabeacon.com/yereth-rosen

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