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A walk in the park

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A stroll within the park

In December 1990, medical doctors discovered a lump the dimensions of a baseball beneath my breastbone — indicators of lymphoma. I used to be fortunate: A heavy dose of chemotherapy saved my life.

Throughout therapy, the medical doctors warned, “No harmful actions.” So I walked. And once more I used to be fortunate. That yr, Chugach State Park ranger Jerry Lewanski was clearing the previous homestead highway on the finish of Prospect Drive, up the South Fork rim of Campbell Creek. Every week he cleared extra, and every week I walked farther. Strolling that path was a lifesaver as properly.

We’ve trails all through Anchorage. What I discover particular about Park trails is that, in lots of locations inside a stone’s throw of Alaska’s greatest metropolis, walkers can discover themselves a view that could possibly be deep within the mountains. To entry these locations, the park has performed an ideal job of offering vast, well-signed trails near parking heaps at Prospect Heights and Glen Alps.

Each places even have programs of “social trails” and narrower strolling trails. All are properly traveled, particularly throughout the latest pandemic. I’ve by no means seen so many hikers. I feel it’s nice!

The paths have additionally seen elevated bike use, clearly reflecting the rising enthusiasm for mountain biking nationwide.

Responding to requests by bikers for elevated entry, the park carried out a significant reroute of the South Fork Rim path in 2019, redesigning it to make biking extra enjoyable. Many love the brand new path, which has undoubtedly introduced elevated numbers of bikers and hikers into the park.

Sadly, the banked turns and switchbacks of the brand new path have additionally inspired quick downhill runs. Vehicles drop off cyclists at Glen Alps, who publish their occasions on the Alaska Mountain Bikers Affiliation web site. That web site paperwork cyclists touring from Glen Alps to Prospect in six to seven minutes, averaging roughly 19 mph. Hikers like myself now keep away from the Rim path and hike different trails.

In mid-August, Park customers could have seen small indicators on the kiosks at each Glen Alps and Prospect asserting the development of one other new path — the primary public discover of what’s marketed as a “multi-use single-track path for bikers, hikers, and skiers” to be constructed by Single Observe Advocates, or STA, this September and October. The Meeting has accepted the usage of $540,000 of CARES Act funding for this and different path work.

I knew this path was within the works. In March 2020, STA president Lee Boling proposed a brand new four-mile downhill bike path, the Hemlock Burn Path, to the Park’s Citizen’s Advisory Board, or CAB. The path would run from Glen Alps to Prospect Heights, starting on the south aspect of Gasline Path, then crossing over and thru the hemlock forest just under Hemlock Knob Path, persevering with west of the facility line all the way in which right down to Prospect Heights.

With an more and more restricted price range, park workers had been eager on STA’s plan to tackle fundraising and upkeep for a brand new path. I used to be dismayed by the prospect of yet one more bike path within the Entrance Vary, and I’m not alone. Right here’s why.

Three-quarters of the brand new Hemlock Burn Path follows a route specified by the Park’s Path Administration Plan. This plan was developed with intensive public remark in 2009 and adopted as regulation in 2016. Within the plan, the path was designated as multi-use, and I appeared ahead to mountain climbing it sometime.

The path that STA will construct, nevertheless, just isn’t for hikers and walkers. Though hikers is not going to be prohibited, what STA is constructing is a two-foot-wide single observe path, the place bikes can be shifting quick downhill.

Each the Park and STA say this new path will make strolling within the Entrance Vary safer. They suggest laws making the South Fork Rim Path one-way uphill for bikes and the brand new Hemlock Burn Path a method downhill for bikes, thus fixing the issue of quick bikes encountering uphill site visitors on the Rim Path. The issue is that the brand new path will certainly improve bike site visitors within the Entrance Vary — an space that already has miles of multi-use trails open to bikes, together with the Gasline, Powerline, White Spruce, and out of Prospect Heights moving into each instructions.

Bikers on the brand new path is not going to count on uphill site visitors and might transfer at increased speeds. If the Hemlock Burn Path had been remoted, this wouldn’t be an issue. However the space it is going to run by is honeycombed by each established park trails and well-used social trails. The brand new path is not going to get rid of hazard, simply transfer it to a distinct place.

STA insists that path crossings can be engineered to sluggish bikes down. However these quite a few path crossings will certainly change the character of strolling within the Entrance Vary. In a stroll I do know properly, going uphill from Prospect Heights, I’ll encounter three path crossings within the first mile. With a canine who doesn’t all the time stroll behind me, that won’t really feel protected, nevertheless properly engineered.

Commenting on the proposed Hemlock Burn Path, wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott emphasized the danger of bear and moose encounters with elevated bike site visitors within the Campbell Creek hall. I’ve by no means heard anybody educated about wildlife within the Entrance Vary disagree.

Former Park Superintendent Jerry Lewanski can also be strongly against the brand new path, mentioning that if constructed, it is going to be the primary time in park historical past {that a} path was constructed for a single person group. Sure, skiers can use it in winter. However make no mistake — the supposed use is downhill biking.

One closing level — and the principle cause I’m writing. Aside from STA’s March presentation to the Citizen’s Advisory Board and subsequent dialogue with Board members, most people has been utterly disregarded of the dialogue of this new path. If studying this you might be studying concerning the new path for the primary time, you aren’t alone.

When the Hemlock Burn Path was first proposed, Mates of Chugach State Park wrote to the park asking for a interval of public remark earlier than going forward with the undertaking. Each the park and the Board’s response was that their function was implementation of the Path Plan, not continued dialogue.

But a lot has modified previously 10 years, with bikes engineered to go ever sooner and so many extra miles of motorbike trails already in Anchorage; taking the time for wider public remark is crucial. The truth is, an prolonged public overview course of for any vital change to the Path Administration Plan is required by regulation. We predict making a downhill bike path the place the plan specifies a multi-use path is important. Furthermore, the final mile of the brand new path goes by hemlock and birch forests near Prospect Heights, the place no path exists within the plan.

Park workers preserve that including this section is a matter of alignment and thus not a major modification of the plan. These few path customers who’ve been following these developments disagree. Many really feel strongly that constructing this new path earlier than giving most people time to think about the proposal is not going to serve the park properly in the long term.

As within the reroute of South Fork Rim path, the biking group will achieve with this new path, however with the various path crossings, walkers will definitely lose. We will do higher in order that generations after us may get pleasure from a stroll within the park.

Ann Fienup-Riordan is a Mates of Chugach State Park member.

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