The Alaska Lengthy Path is a path to outside recreation and financial prosperity

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By Chris Beck, Mariyam Medovaya and Haley Johnston

Updated: 1 hour ago Published: 1 hour ago

Outdoor recreation in Alaska is unique because Alaska’s landscapes are unlike anywhere else. Our mountains are bigger, our wilderness more expansive, and our wildlife more plentiful. While many issues threaten to divide us, prioritizing time spent outdoors may be Alaska’s most universal — and unifying — value.

Alaskans demonstrate their commitment to outdoor recreation in both their participation rate and intensity. In almost every type of outdoor recreation, we get outside more and play harder than people in other states. The statewide non-profit Alaska Trails, along with our Alaska Long Trail Coalition partners, is proposing another way for Alaskans to play outdoors—the Alaska Long Trail—a more than 500-mile, multi-lichen trail system that connects Fairbanks and Seward connects.

While a lot of work has already been done over the past year, specific questions about routes remain unanswered and most of the planning work is still ahead of us. Most of the proposed route will pass through the US Forest Service, the National Park Service and Alaska state lands. While some other long trails, like the Appalachian Trail, are pure hiking trails, we try to capture the diverse spirit of Alaskan trails. The trail system will include a variety of year-round uses, motorized and non-motorized, along various braids. Sections of the proposed trail will be open to hikers, cyclists, ATV riders, skiers, snow machine riders, skijorers, horseback riders and others. Which sections? That depends on a few key factors: the constraints of the landscape, the policies of the agencies that manage the land the trail passes through, and the recreational communities involved in the planning process. The Alaska Long Trail Coalition does not seek to change the designated use of any existing trail section or area.

The Long Trail concept has received excellent bipartisan support from user groups, local governments and geographic regions. We are happy about so much interest and enthusiasm. Several Long Trail projects have recently been funded — and in some cases completed — through state grant programs and national outdoor recreation funding. Now in this legislative session, Alaska Trails and partners are working together to secure funding for shovel-ready and/or plan-ready Long Trail projects in the fiscal year 2023 state capital budget.

The Long Trail will not only provide residents with more opportunities to get outside and enjoy Alaska, but will also give visitors reasons to spend more time and money in our state, which will benefit Alaskan businesses and communities. While there’s no doubt that a world-class long trail will draw visitors – and their wallets – to our state, this will be our trail. Whether you’re enjoying the Alaska Long Trail by snow machine riding all day on the Johnson Pass Trail, gravel biking through the Tanana Valley State Forest, or hiking the entire length, we hope all Alaskans have a great proud of the creation of this world-class trail system here in our world-class scenic landscapes.

If you are interested in getting involved in the process or to learn more about the Alaska Long Trail and how you can show your support, visit our website: https://www.alaska-trails.org/the-alaska- long path. We’ll also be hosting an Alaska Long Trail session at our annual Trails Conference on April 7 from 9:30-11:30 am. This session will initiate the process of regional planning to identify routes, uses and gaps along the Alaska Long Trail corridor. Entry is free and anyone interested in the Alaska Long Trail is invited to participate.

Chris Beck, Mariyam Medovaya and Haley Johnston are employees of Alaska Trails.

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