Meeting Summaries

MGT Nov 13, 2013, Meeting Summary

posted Nov 15, 2013, 1:43 AM by Dot Helm

Thanks to everyone who came Wed night. We had a good turnout of 16 people, including the administrators from all the active managers. Some of this summary will be from my notes, and may not be what was actually said (I wasn't very coordinated)

We reviewed a little of the history of the group starting with the brown bag lunch on Dec 3, 2008, at the Matanuska Experiment Farm and recognizing two main concepts that came out: respecting the different land owners and their missions as well as the numerous non-motorized users in the area. If it moves without a motor, we probably have it in this trail system. Traditionally, this has been one of the more diverse areas for users.

The area is loved not just for the trails, but for the glacial landforms, wildlife, and history including the almost 100-yr old Matanuska Experiment Farm and part of the Machetanz properties. Combined with the presence of two university satellite campuses and nearby schools, it's an incredible resource for trails and outdoor education.

What did the group decide to try to see how everyone could work together: signs and maps, primarily for safety and secondly to enhance the users' experience in the area. (some people don't like the adventure of getting lost in a maze)

We started with 14, hoping for 20, posts, mostly connecting CMT with what became the Mat Lake trailhead. Now we have almost 100 posts with almost 300 signs. Details are included here: It's important to note that 53 individuals or groups donated at least $100 apiece to support the trails. The entire system of non-social trails is mostly signed at this point.

Two people deserve special recognition in getting the MGT to where it is:
1. Farm Administrator Norm Harris who provided the basic GIS information to get us started on the map and had the software to read the logo developed by the State Parks people and draft the first trail signs. Neither the maps nor the signs would have gotten far without that support.

2. Trail guru Mark Gronewald who has volunteered as well as worked for Mat-Su Borough and State Parks for building trails and also for installing many of the posts. Without Mark's support, we'd probably still be trying to install posts and have fewer trails.

Norm Harris, Farm administrator, talked about the history of the Matanuska Experiment Farm, which was established in 1917 to provide some of the research that helped with the Matanuska Colony. He reminded us that the Farm is an active research unit, and the fields and equipment need to be respected. We were also happy to have Patrick Kelly, Regional Resource Manager for UA Lands present.

Wayne Biessel, Mat Lakes SRA administrator, talked about history of MLSRA and its acquisition from private parcels. It's operated by a contractor in a package deal with another park. That contract is up for renewal in December. State Parks doesn't really have any money for trail work there, but if their Hatcher Pass crew gets snowed out, they'll frequently send them to Mat Lakes.

Hugh Leslie, MSB Recreation and Library Services Manager, and Mark Gronewald, MSB Trails Program Coordinator, talked about MSB activity in Crevasse-Moraine and Greenbelt Central, where the new Bear Trails were finished this year. This also included the CMT master plan and possible expansion into the France Rd area, when the lease issue with Palmer is cleared up. We were also happy to have Matthew Beck, our District 2 Assembly person, present.

Most importantly, we had 4 very enthusiastic teachers from Machetanz Elementary School interested in using MGT for place-based learning. Machetanz is a STEM school - science, technology, engineering, math. They've been through iTREC - Iditarod Trail to Every Classroom, which is explained here briefly:
We connected them with ADF&G outreach, retired soil scientist, MSB cultural resources (already know her), and forester for more information.

One thing that's been talked about for a long time is our students go into Eagle River Nature Center or Campbell Creek Science Center to learn about natural and cultural history. Our teachers go in there to teach. Why shouldn't they be taking advantage of resources here. So we're really hoping that the education component of the Greenbelt takes off like the trails have.

Justin Saunders of MSCVB was also there and talked briefly about the new Gateway Visitor Center that will be in the old Homestead RV site.

It will be at least a couple weeks before I can finalize the map to put it online. A few little things yet to do on it plus lots of other things happening right now. At that time or soon after, I'll update trail miles and numbers of posts and signs.

Next meeting will be primarily for land managers to discuss special events / races to get some consistency among them. It will be Jan 8, 1pm, at the Matanuska Experiment Farm. We haven't decided on next meeting after that.

BTW, if you want to share trail conditions with others, please post on our FB page:

Enjoy the trails!

MGT Mar 20, 2013, Meeting Summary

posted Mar 26, 2013, 9:14 PM by Dot Helm   [ updated Mar 26, 2013, 9:31 PM ]

We had some new faces at our last meeting and discussed a number of items. Because some things are still in flux, consider the modifiers "tentatively", "probably", etc, even if I don't explicitly state it that way.

Next meeting is Thursday, April 11, 2013, 5:30pm at the Matanuska Experiment Farm.

1. Landfill. Scott Barr is the new Central Landfill Manager (on board almost one month), and he discussed several items.
a. They're working on a mechanism to halt the trash exodus from the landfill through the local wind tunnel. Tentatively MEA may supply some posts (seconds) and expertise to design an airfoil to capture trash before it escapes. Thank you!

b. The upper part of the Landfill Loop will be closed this summer because it's too close to the landfill operations and is dangerous. It's a safety issue. That may be the only direct impact on trails this summer.

c. At some point, they may need to secure the active and future landfill operation for safety. It's a requirement. This could mean a fence around their entire footprint - both present and future. They're considering other options, but moving fencing every x years would be expensive. They do recognize the value of the trails to many, but at the same time they need to have a safe operation. The trails are on Landfill land.

d. Cell closures. Many of us had a misunderstanding of the way the landfill closes cells. We were under the impression (mistakenly) that they closed and could be reused for things like trails after a period of time (maybe 20 yrs). In reality, it stacks up like slope layers on a hill (sometimes called Mt. Trashmore) and would not be usable for long time. Even when usable, there's limited things that can be done. The pile is already about as tall as it will be, so no worry about a massive mountain. Because they use a liner, they may not be able to have post-landfill uses that have pointy things (like tree roots or posts) that might penetrate the liner. Uses needing flat surfaces wouldn't be suitable because of differential settling.

e. Some soil conditions in the "Swamp Loop" may cause some rethinking of their future operations in that area.

Remember, all the Crevasse-Moraine trails are on Landfill property, and we've had temporary use of the unused land for about 25 yr now, for which we've been grateful. When we talk about "landfill expansion," we're talking about the expansion of the active operations into parts of their property - NOT beyond. The Landfill people are trying to work with us since they do recognize how much people love the trails in the area, and we're trying to work with them to help educate trail users.

Remember to reuse, recycle, compost, whatever to reduce input to the landfill.

2. Crevasse-Moraine Master Plan. There's *almost* a version for public comment. After it comes out, you have 30 days to comment. Your input is important - both pro and con for the various pieces. They haven't given me a link yet, but I expect it to be here
We did have a draft at the meeting. It outlines 4 proposed types of trails as well as corridors where they would be.

3. New CMT trailhead should occur sometime this summer. The excavator near the trailhead was located there by the contractor before weight limits go into effect on roads.

4. New trail in Greenbelt Central near Bearberry Bluff. Mark Gronewald (MSB) was very successful in his proposal for funds for more single-track trail in Greenbelt Central. "The following Recreational Trails Program projects have been tentatively approved by the Outdoor Recreational Trails Advisory Board and the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, and are subject to final approval from the Federal Highways Administration."
Note that the MSB region did quite well in obtaining approvals - and hopefully funds:

5. Trail changes to expect this summer are roughly shown here with dashed lines showing trail closures and dotted lines showing new construction:
(Table of Contents is at left, middle icon. When in TOC, mouse over one of the 2013 items, click on arrow at the right, then click on "zoom to" to center the change in window)

a. New CMT trailhead construction above where the existing one is. Expect some new trail(s) to come down the hillside and connect to the east. (not sure when or where)
b. Closure of the upper part of Landfill Loop and possible revegetation of part of that (see #1b - safety reasons).
c. Some new single track trails in the Greenbelt Central area, connecting with Bearberry Bluff trail - assuming the grant is funded. (see #4) 
d. Continued work on Long Lake Loop reroute, but shouldn't affect any traffic. (not sure if expecting completion this summer or not)  (see #6)

6. Alaska State Parks is organizing a trail work day on National Trails Day, June 1. This will be to continue the reroute of the east end of Long Lake Loop to bypass the steep hill. Looks like event will be staged from Matanuska Lake. Details are here:

7. Alaska Agriculture Appreciation Day at the Matanuska Experiment Farm, Thursday, August 8, noon to 6pm. This is its 4th year and has been growing each year, having almost 2000 people last year. It's been morphing into an event with more educational vendors, both traditional agriculture and natural resources. If any of your agencies or trail groups would like to have a table or make a presentation, please let us know. They have forms to fill out so they know how many vendors / displays / presentations to expect.

8. New MSB imagery. We showed some of the new imagery and LIDAR products with our trails overlaid on them. We're playing around with various products to see what works for various applications. (I'm still on the learning curve for that stuff.)

9. Facebook. Here's a place where you can interact with other trail users. Report trail conditions. You might check here during breakup for conditions. (Hint: Farm roads are usually among the first places to dry. South side of Long Lake in some areas are next. Or use gravel or paved trails near here or elsewhere.)
Oh, yeah, current conditions - awesome snow. Mooseberry Mesa was like a Christmas scene today, except the sun was a lot higher in the sky (pictures coming when I get a chance).

MGT Dec 6, 2012, Meeting Summary

posted Dec 10, 2012, 1:27 AM by Dot Helm   [ updated Dec 11, 2012, 4:52 AM ]

1.   Next meeting is tentatively set for Thurs, Jan 10, 2013, at the Matanuska Experiment Farm. (Alternate date is Jan 24. This is actually a switch from our meeting, but a conflict that I thought existed didn’t. I haven’t had confirmation from landowners yet.)

2. . Matanuska Greenbelt is on Facebook now!

What we’re hoping to do is get more interaction with and among users with respect to what’s happening in the Greenbelt – trail conditions, events, etc.  Feel free to post or share pictures, esp. ones of people playing, working, learning as well as scenery.

3.     We discussed some observations from both the CMT Master Plan (USKH consultant for MSB) and Mat-Su Trails Master Plan (Agnew:Beck for MSTPF, Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation). The CMT meeting had 4 stations which people were supposed to visit for 15 min, then rotate

a.       Nature Trail System – people suggested the best place for this was at the south end where the geology was more visible. (Palmer SWCD had been working with Valley Pathways on some conservation applications and thought of a nature trail in the France Rd area. )

b.      Outdoor Fitness Central – While their writeup was more along the lines of general health and fitness, I got the impression that the presentation was more along the lines of competitive sports like Kincaid. People basically said they liked their trails the way they were.

c.       Northeast gateway of the MGT looked at another trailhead adjacent to Valley Pathways, but perhaps work on an alternate access route coming down further to the east (like Felton) to reduce traffic along France Rd.

d.      “Legacy Central Park” looked at protecting the area with an area-wide plan. This might be more formal collaboration and planning than we have now as well as land trades, vacating section line easements, etc. MSB and State Parks were represented at this station, and someone from Great Land Trust was there seeing what our priorities are.

(Note: I was at the d. station most of the time, only briefly got to Fitness center, and talked with a few users. So this summary is my best representation of what happened. A product from the consultants should come out later this winter, I think.)

While users were supposed to divide themselves up evenly among the four stations, the two dealing with the overall greenbelt (c and d) were the most popular. A few of us were stationed at the “Central Park” station, and I think most of the people that started there, stayed for two 15-min sessions (30 min) when they were encouraged by the consultant to go to next station.

With the MSTPF plan (different from CMT plan), some of the preliminary summaries of those community meetings are picking up on connectivity within the MGT as well as from the MGT to Palmer, to Palmer Hay Flats, to Wasilla, and to Moose Range / Hatcher Pass. There will be more meetings on the MSTPF plan.


4.     Buy-a-Something program. Since our Buy-a-Post program was so successful, why not extend that to benches or picnic tables or interpretive signs or …? One idea that seemed to catch on was to have a few “destination points” which *might* have a picnic table and/or bench, interpretive sign, and a view through the trees. As most of us know, except for the farm fields, trees tend to block views of the lakes and mountains with a few exceptions of peeking through the trees at just the right angle.

For this to be successful, we’d need cash donations (or materials), volunteers, and some plan for long-term maintenance (normal wear, vandalism reduction).

What was suggested since the MSB has some extra lumber from another project and the picnic table on Bearberry Bluff *almost* has a view, try enhancing that site during summer 2013 to decide what should be done and what materials. Estimate costs for other sites and scope out some sites in 2013, then develop a fund-raising / work plan to do one or two a year starting in 2014.

The donations could be broken down into small items (maybe a simple sign or a bolt), medium (bench or some wood), large (interp sign).


5. What would it take to make the State Rec Area a State Park and what benefits would that have? This was along the lines that none of the properties, esp. the trails, are protected except for that small ROW through the Kepler Park. We recognize the university has its mission with its lands, but also recognize that even the MSB and ASP lands can be vulnerable.

(This has been answered in that a SRA is usually more intensely developed than a "state park".)

6. Newsletter of dates of activities to hand out at events to let people know what’s going on. This might be just as easily done through FB and other electronic means = green solution.


Hope to see you on the trails and at the next meeting in Jan.


MGT Mar 21, 2012, Meeting Summary

posted Apr 14, 2012, 8:35 PM by Dot Helm

Next meeting is April 18, 5:30pm, at the Farm, upstairs lab. That may be our last formal meeting of this winter, but informal meetings continue as people have time amidst trail and farm work.

1. Job Corps finished our other two trailhead structures, and they’re at Mat-Su College waiting for installation. Thank you, Job Corps! Exact location and time for installation will depend on the College’s new construction (Snodgrass Hall expansion, PAC construction, water project, and access / flow roads around all this). I’m going to try to get together with MSC folks in the next week or so about a couple different things with the trails.

2. Breakup. We’re developing some kinder / gentler signs for breakup to make sure everyone (foot, bike, dog, and horse traffic) recognizes that breakup suggestions apply to them. We’ll list some suggested places where people can use trails or strategies people can use locally to minimize impact on trails. These would include the paved bike paths and Alcantra and hardened part of West Butte. Trails are firmer in the morning and on north-facing slopes. Most years, the farm roads dry out before other areas. And some trails are better drained than others.

These comments resulted in suggestion that maybe we need a firm / hardened / well-drained trail in MGT that people can use during breakup without having to go elsewhere. This is something to consider in our trails plan. Hopefully, keeping responsible folks on the trails will reduce the vandalism opportunities.

3. Trails Plan. There’s things happening on a few different fronts that may affect how we proceed with this, but we should know some of this by our next meeting. In the meantime, a few of us will work on this creating a strawman / backbone to be revised by others.

As a start for the plan, we identified things that are valued in the Matanuska Greenbelt: contiguous green / open space, non-motorized, all users respecting each other, and recognizing the varied experiences that people want (quiet place away from things to competitive races and many things in between). We also want to recognize the natural (glacial landforms, vegetation, wildlife including birds) and cultural heritage (homesteading, agriculture) of the area, which is what makes this area so special. While there’s been a number of educational activities over the years – informal, regular classes, and group activities – it would be great to make more of this available to the general public, esp. when considering tourists and local residents who are unfamiliar with the history. Nature trails and science learning centers have been mentioned in the past.

We started a list of existing activities about 7 yr ago when working on the Farm master plan and will be adding to this. We’ve been accumulating a list of documents / plans, etc that are relevant to this area from all the land managers. (I just don’t have them organized yet.) All of them recognize the trails to some extent.

4. Mooseberry Stampede Mountain Bike Race will be Sat June 9 as part of Colony Days again. Proceeds of this race (above expenses) go to trail projects in the Greenbelt.

Enjoy the sun and hope for a gentle breakup, but remember we can still get snow in April or May.

MGT Feb 15, 2012, Meeting summary

posted Mar 19, 2012, 3:02 AM by Dot Helm   [ updated Mar 19, 2012, 3:05 AM ]

Next meeting is March 21, 2012, Wed 5:30pm at Matanuska Experiment Farm, upstairs lab.

Thanks so much to everyone who attended Wed night's meeting. We had about 20 people spread across an assortment of agencies and organizations as well as trail users. We'd also like to report that we haven't taken all the fun out of the area with the signs - people can still get lost. :)  It's just a little more challenging. However, the signs do seem to be taking some of the fear-factor out of using the system, and we do seem to have more users (no data, unfortunately).

1. Landfill. Cathy Mayer, the new Landfill manager, discussed proposed plans for the landfill. She wants to leave a little more buffer between the landfill and homes, so our present CMT trailheads are likely safe for another few years. Expect to see some changes to the Landfill Loop since it is too close to the active landfill - safety issues, including people entering the landfill. She is looking into the possibility of using woody plants rather than just grasses for the revegetation, including contacting Greg to find the information. All plans are subject to change.

And keep in mind that recycling and composting materials will reduce input to the landfill, which will slow its expansion.

It looks like a new trailhead will be built on top the present sled hill by removing part of the hill. There appears to be funds to put a new outhouse at the new location. There's supposed to be a 2-3% sloped trail leading down to the east edge of CMT, which would provide access to our trails. Keep in mind that all this has to survive the budget process.

2. Sandra Garley, the City of Palmer's Community Development Director, spoke about their new trails plan. She discussed some of their priorities in terms of getting trails and parks near the Brittany Estates area, the quadrant of Palmer that's separated by the highways from the rest of the city. Also getting a safe route for kids to get down Bailey hill into town. Kids may need to use the library or ice facility and have to get there under their own power. No resolution to the France Rd issue appears near.

Possibilities for connecting the city to MGT could occur at CMT or down near the State Park where the Glenn Hwy expansion may result in a bike path into the park.

3. Bonnie Quill, of the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau, talked about plans for the new South Gateway Visitor Center. Their preferred site is the Homestead RV park for the WOW factor. However, MEA has purchased the entire 50 acres for right of way from Eklutna power plant. MEA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with MSCVB on developing the new visitor center.

4. Chris Kepler of Kepler Park spoke about the significant impacts of the Glenn Highway expansion on their operation. State parks installed a trailhead structure for Kepler Park, but still needs to install the posters in it. He also mentioned that some people are still getting lost and getting to Kepler Park and not the Matanuska Lake Trailhead. What we *think* is happening is that many people haven't keyed in on the name change in the state park. Hopefully, some of this will be resolved when all the trailhead posters get up.

I just revisited some of the signs on the Kepler Connector and will look into whether there's something there that could be improved. As with all signs, some assumptions were made regarding potential destinations at those intersections.

In the meantime, remind people that when they park at the main parking area of Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Area, to get back to that follow the signs that say "Matanuska Lake Trailhead". If you follow the signs to Kepler Park,  you will end up in the private Kepler Park. (Some people may be thinking that Kepler is a shortened version of Kepler-Bradley, which trail users have used in the past, but Kepler Park is the private park most visible from the Glenn Hwy.)

Bonnie made the suggestion of Q R cards to provide people with maps and other information. We will definitely look into doing this, esp. since it follows some of our progression with online maps.

5. Fran Seager-Boss, MSB Planning, spoke briefly about the National Heritage Area, which we've been participating in.

6. Mark Gronewald, MSB Trails Program Coordinator, indicated he'd been working on some thoughts for trail-building policies.

7. Roger Gossett of Job Corps talked a little about the types of small projects (one day) his Leadership program can sometimes fit in. Our trailhead structures are being built by their Carpentry students. This gives them training in reading design specs, measuring dimensions on a model structure, and constructing something that gets used. This gets to be a little more exciting for them than routine classroom exercises.

8. Sara Wilson Doyle of USKH made the suggestion of identifying features that we might want to attract people to on trails and other features, like wetlands, where we would want to steer trails away from there.

This is just the highlights of what was discussed, and I hope I've accurately summarized the items.

Just some broad syntheses of thoughts over the past few meetings (formal and with consultants): I think I'm seeing a multi-part trails plan:
1. Trails nuts and bolts - trail design (width, clearing, hardening, technical features, etc found in Trail Management Objectives)
2. Natural and cultural history. Unique geology and agricultural history - the things that make this trail system unique.

Natural and cultural history will have a strong educational aspect - students from UAF, UAA (MSC), Valley Pathways, home school - either formally or through geo/earthcache or self-guided tours / walk abouts / nature trails (electronically implemented). But these may also be features to attract trails.

Trails will also have an outreach aspect - educate people about proper trail use.

Hope to see you all at our next meeting on March 21.


MGT Jan 11, 2012, Meeting Summary

posted Jan 18, 2012, 12:22 AM by Dot Helm   [ updated Jan 18, 2012, 12:26 AM ]

Hope everyone is enjoying the snow!

Next meeting is Feb 15, 5:30pm, at the Matanuska Experiment Farm. We have invited a number of our stakeholders with interests adjacent to the Matanuska Greenbelt. As with any of our meetings, we welcome anyone interested in the trails. In the meeting reminder, I'll let you know who we anticipate coming, after they've had a chance to respond.

Some of the Jan meeting focused around a trails plan and various topics that spun off what's become known as the "Burn Barrel" meeting at Winter Trails Day. Two people from the Mat-Su Youth Facility let us know more about their program and all of the volunteer work they've been doing - including picking up trash around K-Mart Alley. A *huge* thanks for that. We hope to partner with th

Between Dec and Jan meetings, I did visit with 3 consultants - SDG, USKH, and HDR - about how do we do a trails plan and how much it might cost, so we would have some idea of how much money we might need, which would influence how we raise / find those funds. I explained we were a group of trail users and land managers working together without a formal structure and seem to be successful at that level so far. Suggestions ranged from no / minimal plan ($3-5k) to a big plan ($90-$100k). Based on discussions, it seemed like we could probably do something reasonable for $30k plus or minus $20k (how's that for narrowing things down ;) ).  If you've seen Willow's Summer Trails Plan that I linked to last time, it's about $30k with the Willow folks doing a lot of the homework to save costs.

Some of the costs will relate to how much homework we can do for them. We may have a unique combination of resources because of the land managers and volunteers involved with these trails - but very limited time. Hiring a consultant may be a more efficient way of doing it.

Just a very short quick list of types of things we might want to see in a trails plan include TMO's (trail management objectives, which guide maintenance), needs / desires of various user types (mode of travel, skills, fitness), new trails, and educational features (nature trails, self-guided tours, earthcaches - things that anyone could use and could become resources for home-schooled kids, rather than driving to Anchorage).

A couple other trails plans from outside were also presented and briefly discussed.

Glenn Hwy expansion from 2 to 4 lanes at south end of MGT could have some interesting impacts - potentially bad in some aspects, but potentially very good in others. A good benefit might be a bike path entering the park from that side of highway.  Obviously all these things are in the planning stages and things change, but this might be a project to keep an eye on.

I had also been looking for potential partners, preferably a 501c3, if needed. We would like to be more interactive with Gateway Community Council since they live in the area and have some of their goals related to trails. They are a non-profit, but not a 501c3. I've been attending some of their meetings. Alaska Trails, a 501c3, is willing to partner - potentially either for pass-through arrangements as they've been doing with STA in Anchorage OR they may have some skills that could be useful in our trails planning and we could write them into a proposal.

For our next meeting, we hope to have some of our stakeholders and can discuss some of their concerns and opportunities. Somewhere we need to start deciding on goals of the trails plan and how to make it a living, breathing document rather than a dust collector.

Hope to see you on the trails or at next meeting on Feb 15, 2012.

MGT Dec 14, 2011, Meeting Summary

posted Dec 19, 2011, 10:38 PM by Dot Helm   [ updated Dec 19, 2011, 10:57 PM ]

Next meeting:  Wed Jan 11, 5:30pm Matanuska Experiment Farm.

Trails Plan. Primary focus was on a trails plan and how to go about doing this. Why do we need one: increased usage in the area now that people can find their way around the system (most of the time) and need to deal with changes adjacent to the trails. We need to deal with present trail maintenance as well as future developments. Rather than passively go with whatever happens, let's see if we can help steer things for the benefit of the trails.

We all know a trails plan when we see one and have been involved in lots, but none of those present has ever been involved in the contracting end or had a clue as to cost.

Sooo, our homework for next time (Jan 11) is to start getting a handle on how much the various components of a trails plan might cost by asking some local consultants. It's believed that the public involvement part *might* be in the $5-$10k range, while a full plan (with us doing lots of preliminary work) might be near $30k, so contracting a cadillac version could be beyond $50k.

IOW, we need to figure out what we want / need, what we can do, and what we need to hire a consultant for. Then figure out how to raise funds, where to write proposals, whatever. We may need to partner with other groups, including a 501c3. (STA did this very successfully for a number of years.)

Since our meeting, I've had several email exchanges about Willow's Summer Trail Plan including their RFP. Their Summer Trail Plan is about 2/3 of the way down this page:

If you are easily overwhelmed by long documents, skip these next links and go down to Trail Training ;)  but some folks will be interested in other approaches.

A few other trails plans are here:  (spaghetti-loop trails with many trailheads, like us)
(this last is a template from NH)

Obviously these are very different based on the units being planned for AND the amount of available funds.

For completeness, here's the MSB Trail plan (more of an inventory):

The new Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation is also working on public outreach and a trails management plan which can lay a general structure for some details of trails management, like TMO's (Trail Management Objectives) and Trail Assessments.

MGTA will be looking at something specific for our trails - something not covered by any of the general approaches, but we will build on part of those.

You might also look at
for ideas on how a non-501c3 group can do things by partnering with others. I think they are working on getting their 501c3 now.

Trail Training. We mentioned the potential for the Alaska Trails Academy this spring for training volunteers in a 2-day session and seasonal employees in a 5-day session. Probably in early May, possibly in the greater Palmer area. This is all just proposed, but could provide a solution to getting volunteers trained for trail maintenance and building. We will let you know what develops.

If you want to know first hand about developments, I encourage you to join
which has been instrumental in some of the earlier trail training sessions and statewide conferences, including the highly successful Trail Rondy this past spring. Their monthly email newsletter / action updates are a wealth of information on trails from local to statewide level and some national.

National Winter Trails Day: Sat. Jan 7 at Hatcher Pass mi 10.6 sledding hill, 10:30-3pm, organized by MSB. REI brings out skis and snowshoes for people to try for free. Volunteers will offer instruction. Lots of fun, good way to meet other trail users.
(you'll probably need to plug in "AK" for state to get to details)

Part 2 of our meeting was the Palmer public meeting for Parks, Trails and Recreational Fields. While much of the presentation was about parks, their desire to improve connectivity with surrounding areas - especially Crevasse-Moraine - was reiterated. We're really hoping that this can help with the France Rd issue as the landfill expands. The files for their plans are here:{C6B996CF-431A-42E4-AA29-F555E37954F5}

Have a Happy Holiday, enjoy the trails, and see you at our next meeting on Jan 11.

MGT Nov 2, 2011, Meeting Summary

posted Nov 4, 2011, 1:40 AM by Dot Helm   [ updated Nov 4, 2011, 2:04 AM ]

The last of the metal directional signs were installed Thurs morning - before the afternoon snow and wind. :)  We still have a few small things yet this year - couple donor name plates, trailhead posters, and get materials to Job Corps for the remaining two trailhead structures. The trailhead posters will help out with map at trailhead as well as etiquette. But the vast majority of the work is done - after 3 yrs.

Next meeting is Dec 14. 6pm at the Farm.

This freed us up for the meeting on Wed to discuss where we want to go from here - if anywhere.

A trails plan was brought up and supported by everyone. We now have more people out there in more places, now that people aren't afraid of getting lost and know of the existence of some of these trails. This is good. We'd better like to figure out things with existing trails and usage. We also have a landfill expanding onto the trails, a gravel pit at eastern border which may become a subdivision, a potential site of new Gateway Visitor / Community Center, and probably some things we aren't aware of. We'd like to design trails to go on the revegetated landfill cells as they are reclaimed, and perhaps try to encourage a non-motorized connector through any subdivision in the reclaimed gravel pit. IOW, we'd like to be pro-active. Many of the following topics could be aspects of a formal trails plan or implemented independently of it.

New trails. MSB has proposed some new trails in the Greenbelt Central parcel and is submitting a proposal for funding. MSB also anticipates being able to train volunteers for trailwork. This is a part of their volunteer program, but was not implemented in the past. This is a benefit of MSB now having a Trails Program Coordinator (Mark Gronewald). Since MSB trails crew works on Saturday, they could have trained volunteer help on some of those days. This will be a great way of getting more people more involved in the trails and creating more ownership.

Trail maintenance / patrols. People and/or organizations may sign up for trails for certain time periods. This could be a year-long commitment or perhaps summer only or winter only. We could promote that group by a posting at the trailhead, like you see along highways.

We'd probably break the trail system down into manageable units, say lower loops of CMT, Mooseberry Mesa, Long Lake Loop, whatever. The responsible volunteers would cruise their trail during their time period - looking for downed trees or other trail maintenance needs, vandalism, anything suspicious, whatever.

At the very least, they would report to the land owner that something needs to be done or anything suspicious. IF they are qualified for actual maintenance, they may be able to fix whatever - like maybe remove a downed tree with a handsaw. Chainsaw activity requires certain training. Details will obviously take awhile to work out.

Reporting trail issues. The state and borough really would like us to contact them if there's trail issues. We are their eyes on the trails. Their phone numbers are posted at their trailheads as well as on the 10.5x12in map signs on the double posts. It saves them time in having to cruise the trails if they know where the issues are. How to report the location: if you've got a gps with you, you could give that lat/long; or you could indicate which trail you're on and which connection you're closest to; or some other mechanism. We'll work on the details. We might be able to do this in a higher tech manner eventually, but start out simple. While our signs get you back to your car (if you remember where you parked it), there's still some challenges identifying exactly where you are to someone else. One step at a time. ;)

Map signs on double posts. These mostly face north to make it easier for people to orient themselves. However, it wasn't possible in all locations to orient them that way, so they may face south, east, or west. I was going to add some comment (probably a laminated sign) indicating which direction north is. That hasn't happened yet and has low priority. They contain phone numbers for 911, Alaska State Troopers, and the land manager. They also point to where you are, have the lat/long (in format that Emergency Services folks use), and have a descriptor name (somewhat arbitrary, will mean nothing to EMS) where that post is. I'll try to get some of this stuff out on maps - "sometime" (trying to catch up with life at the moment).

Surveillance system. Because of the vandalism and theft issues at a couple of the trailheads, it's been proposed to look into some sort of surveillance system. Some can be high tech and expensive to install, maintain, and monitor. Others, like wildlife cameras / webcams, can be a lot less expensive. This will require a lot of homework. Originally, it was brought up as an individual item. Then it was suggested to make it part of the trails plan.

Palmer Collaborations. We should reach out more to the City of Palmer for collaborations. They are working on a trails plan. They would like connectivity to CMT as well as safe ways for kids to get to school and use various facilities. There are also other potential connectors farther south. They've shown their willingness to work on trails with the bike pump track in Palmer. They also have a lease on the France Road property, which at one time had been considered for trails and trailhead to expand CMT. This would be nice if we can come up with a win-win situation for everyone. The Matanuska Greenbelt is a prime recreational area for residents of the city proper as well as the surrounding areas.

Donation program. Some would like to make tax-deductible donations to the trails on a regular basis and perhaps larger donations (like wills). Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation (MSTAPF) was established partly to provide a mechanism for people to donate to trails. Right now MGT is not a 501c3, and attendees last night preferred to focus on getting things done than creating another level of bureaucracy. (this is an annual question, with the same answer)  It has advantages and disadvantages. So far, we have been doing grants and our Buy a Posts through VMBaH. We have started a subaccount with MSTAPF, but details on getting funds back out still need to be worked out for long-term situations.

Education / youth. Two different topics but intertwined. We'd like to reach out to kids and get them involved so they feel ownership for the trails and respect them. This would include activities as well as learning about outdoor etiquette and natural resources  But there's also a component of educating adults about same things. Mat Lake has been available for nature education for elementary school kids, Farm has had 4H encampments, Mat-Su College had a well-labelled nature trail and still has an arboretum and working on Tree Campus USA status. Geocaching and earthcaching can fit in here as educational activities. This is one of those things that's taken a backseat to signs for awhile.

It was also discussed about how to get more security-like presence - either a uniformed patrol or park ranger or whatever.

So, yes, the group wants to move on to other goals - lots of exciting goals that need to be prioritized or have different folks in charge of different parts. It was exciting to see all the land owners there and talking with each other.

And it was sure nice to discuss something besides signs. :)  Hope to see you on the trails.

MGT: March 16, 2011, meeting summary

posted Mar 22, 2011, 1:28 AM by Dot Helm   [ updated Dec 19, 2011, 10:59 PM ]

March 16 was a small meeting but I've been in contact with some of the missing folks between meetings and will be again.

1. Trailhead signs. Norm showed the revised verbage based on trail users' comments. What I'll try to do is catch up with the other managers over the next couple weeks and see if they have anything special to include, then put all the revised signs online so people can see what they all look like, and see if there's anything they'd like different.

2. Lots of loose ends regarding costs and fund raising for the trailhead signs, but I'm hoping we'll figure that out over the next few weeks.

3. Some of the land managers may have their own crews assemble the trailhead structures; others may depend on volunteers.

4.  Landfill expansion is major question since the manager left and no replacement yet. That only affects a small part of the system at the north end, but it potentially has a major effect on access from that end.

5. We had the prototype kiosk sign - the map (about same size as the 11x17) on a 10.5 in metal sign, like the directional signs. Everyone seemed to really like it. We still need to figure out where they should go and anything else that should be on them. I also need to tweak some colors a little at suggestion of the sign manufacturer. That's lower priority than trailhead signs.

6. I was able to talk with the new MSB Community Development Manager, James King, about the MGT and showed him the map and new signs as well as draft trailhead signs. He really liked what we we are doing, so everybody is still on board.

7. This week's quiz: What method of displaying lat/long do you use in your gps or phone app? (post in Discussions)

1. N61.58307°    W149.19250°

2. N61°34.984'    W149°11.555'

3. N61°34'59.1"   W149°11'33.0"

4. other?

5. Do you vary display method based on what you're doing?

These are all the same location (what used to be Y where Expressway, Outer Trail, and Long Lake Connector meet). Many people don't recognize the differences in these display methods.

We will likely be putting lat/long coords on the kiosk signs and trailhead signs and want to be sure we choose the most useful format. (I'll also check some other sources besides trail users. There may be reasons - like emergency services - to select a display method that's less common than that used by users.)

Thanks for your help.

See you on the trails.

MGT Feb 16, 2011, Meeting Summary

posted Mar 22, 2011, 1:27 AM by Dot Helm   [ updated Dec 19, 2011, 10:58 PM ]

Sorry for taking so long to get this out, but our next meeting will likely be Wed March 16, 2011, 6pm at the farm. Norm will send out formal announcement, but since I was so slow getting this summary out, we thought we'd give you a heads up.

Last meeting (Feb 16)  had two announcements and discussion of trailhead sign progress.

Trail Rondy:  Alaska Trails is holding the 2011 Biennial Trail Rondy on April 15-17, 2011, at the Alaska Job Corps Center. Details and registration information is at

Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation: This nonprofit (not part of MSB government) was formed in January with the intent to develop and maintain quality trails in the MSB. Trails are being recognized both for local use as well as part of tourism industry. We're hoping to expand the trail building and maintenance industry, which isn't well developed in MSB. While MSTAPF is separate from MSB government, legislation has been introduced to the MSB assembly to reappropriate some funds to MSTAPF for trail management and public engagement with the intent of those funds being matched with other funds and/or volunteer labor. IOW, it's a way of leveraging the minimal funds that have been available for trails in the past and to encourage trails not just as a recreation / tourism industry but as a trail-building industry. This is throughout the MSB. However, it should also provide a mechanism for trail projects (like MGT) to raise funds and expend them on specific projects. Processes need to be worked out yet.
The Public Hearing is March 15 at the Assembly Meeting. It would be great to have trail users there. I can let you know more as we get more details.

Trailhead Sign / Bulletin Board Progress
(the main part of our MGT meeting)

The trailhead sign committee folks had met in November to discuss
(1) what needed to be on the signs
(2) how to arrange it
(3) how to word it
then various drafts were shown to land managers and others for input / comments as well as us rethinking some things. We had some examples of various iterations (and there were many) that we went through at the meeting. We've tried to incorporate both ASP and MSB standards (or at least the required information) as well as things that users have seen on other trailhead signs and thought we should have them here also.

The preferred draft at this time is 45in wide x 30in high. The priority items are (1) Map, (2) Trail Etiquette, (3) Emergency contact info that are in center, top left, and top right of the sign, respectively. Then other stuff lower down. A conceptual draft is at  . Consider these building blocks with the details being worked out - lots of adjusting for the various land managers and special issues at each trailhead. When you look at the .pdf, a very rough draft comes up, then the resolution improves as the greater detail gets loaded. (I'm on slow DSL and it takes awhile - maybe a minute or more)

The center would be the large MGT map - about 27in on a side (a little larger than anything we've had printed to date) with the Trailhead Name on top. The column of text to the left would contain Etiquette, Yield / Shared Use Triangle (with icons of the various uses at the corners), and Discouraged or Prohibited Activities. The bottom might be Ski Etiquette (CMT) or Current Events (upcoming festivals or races or whatever).

Column to the right of map would start with Emergency contacts (911, AST, other), a "welcome msg" from the land manager (the image they want to project), general trail mileage in the MGT, specific mileage from this trailhead to other trailheads or key areas, and other admin info like website for maps.

The preferred trailhead sign structure at this point is what State Parks is using since (1) they would already have specs for it and (2) it's not that different from other trailhead signs that seem to work very well. For terminology, ASP calls these "bulletin boards." We're using the paper within the picture frame approach so the signs can be updated as needed, esp. as the landfill expands and changes trails at the north end.

The tentative idea is to do a mass purchase of the materials "sometime", get them assembled (volunteers or employees or partnerships or ....), and install some time this summer.  Notice the vagueness of who and timelines. We need to get cost estimates and some fund raising. (It all sounds so simple until we try to implement. ;) )

Mat Lakes SRA might need to be a little different since they need to meet some of their own standards, but also want to make people aware of the larger area. Reality is for most of the trailheads, that users use the trailheads as access to the entire area, not just that land manager's property. ASP's signs people in Anchorage are working on orientation panels also for their trailheads, which is something a little different but possibly some overlap. This is part of their maintenance program. So they're working on how all the pieces fit together.

The managers are working on their respective wording and tweaks. I won't go into those details, but we've discussed things that are not clear in some existing wording, and they're going to work on how to clarify. We're trying to standardize as many things across the properties as possible, but also recognize that each property has some of its own concerns and special issues.

Overall, we've had some good discussions about trailhead signs and trying to make them meaningful to users and meet the land managers' goals.

Kiosk signs: These might be 11in metal signs with map on 12-in faces (two 6x8 or 6x6in posts bolted together) on about a dozen key intersections throughout the MGT. I submitted a version of these to the sign folks a week or so ago, and they will try to get it out by March 14, so we'll have it to look at during our March 16 meeting. This is more of a feasibility sign to see how that aerial image background turns out on metal.

Other MSB changes: Their new Community Development Manager is in place.

Hope to see you all at the next meeting or on the trails.

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