New maps are up at http://www.matanuska-greenbelt.org/trail-maps , finally. Version 4 has the new names on the Mat-Su College trails. We’ve got our own domain now www.matanuska-greenbelt.org which may facilitate access. The maps have our domain on them as well as the version number and date. (Some other websites have copied our maps rather than linking to them, so they frequently have outdated information. I include the version number in the file name.)
The 2010 donor plates are still on hold. Our original vendor is still trying to fix his problem. An alternate vendor can do it but needs to wait for a materials order to arrive, hopefully within a week or so.
We had a good meeting Monday night, Nov 1, 2010.
Cliff’s Notes version: A small committee will be working on content of trailhead signs most likely using a bulletin board format like state parks to make it easy to change maps as trails change with the expanding landfill and other issues. An Adopt-a-Trail program was proposed for light trail maintenance, and someone is exploring how to partition the trails into reasonable size units for small groups / families. Our top two priorities for this year are the trailhead signs and Adopt-a-Trail. Many, many other issues were discussed, but would fall under the need for a more formal trail management plan.
Unabridged version (several people have indicated they like the details and we want the information public):
1. We decided to retain informality and emphasize getting work done rather than dealing with formalities of 501c3 (it has benefits and drawbacks). There’s a good chance we can work with the new Trails and Parks Foundation after it’s created in January 2011, but that organization is still forming.
2. Trailhead signs. This is our #1 priority this year because we need them, and they should be an achievable goal. People favored bulletin board style with easily replaceable documentation – similar to State Parks but free to adapt as needed. This allows us the flexibility needed with expanding landfill and potential trail additions / reroutes in the area. At some point, if the system has stabilized, we could consider something more permanent, which would be more expensive, but not likely in foreseeable future.
3. Trailhead sign content. We had content there from State Parks, MSB, and Far North Bicentennial Park trailhead signs. People are leaning toward blending the contents and adapting to our situation as needed. One thing lacking on our local trailheads is the yield triangle (everyone yields to horses, bikes yield to everyone else) as well as some general courtesy items. Several people liked the Far North Bicentennial Park signs for their wording and organization, but would need to be modified for local applications.
A committee of three (Dan Amyot, Ken Thomas, and Dot) will put together a strawman, consulting with landowners as we go, and provide to others, esp. the land owners, to see how that works for them. Each landowner will need some tweaking for things that are allowed or not allowed and some special issues, like yielding to tractors on farm roads.
I think most people want to see the trailhead signs up by summer. State Parks is also working on an orientation panel to put at the trailhead to give folks an idea what to do there. This is different from the trailhead signs we’re talking about, but there might be some overlap. I’m following up on that.
4. Kiosks. These are the signs where you enter a new unit from within the trail system, like the two ends of the Long Lake Connector trail where you’re entering either CMT or MLSRA system from elsewhere. They’re something more than a trail sign, but not as much as trailhead signs. We didn’t really discuss these and may not have time to do them this year, but I suspect the trailhead sign committee will at least start on them. These would have maps and do’s/don’ts of the unit you’re entering. Whether they use text or universal symbols is yet to be decided.
5. We may need boundary signs, especially for the State Parks enforcement. This is 3rd in sign priority – after trailhead signs and kiosks.
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6. Adopt-a-Trail. We recognize that none of the land managers has a trail crew dedicated to their land within MGT, although the MSB does have someone remove trees and State Parks may have a crew do some work. Farm keeps their roads passable by farm vehicles as needed. Volunteers would like to help but probably shouldn’t go helter skelter in the area since they may not know proper procedures for brushing or to what level to brush something. Pete Houston proposed an Adopt-A-Trail program where a person, family, trail group, whatever, might adopt a trail within the system – maybe a mile or two. This would be on a finer grain than the MSB’s Trail Care Crew program, which right now has all of CMT (except Mooseberry Mesa) for one crew. I think that’s about 6 mi. Smaller units may be more manageable. As with many things, there may be issues with regulations and insurance, but it’s an idea that people wanted to bring forward to the managers.
Details would need to be worked out with land owners if it’s even feasible, but CMT and State Parks already have volunteer programs with nonprofits. The level of maintenance might be just light brushing with hand tools and maybe reporting downed trees. More qualified volunteers or employees could handle larger trees.
With this, we’re just trying to help the land managers where they have limited resources, but recognize there are some things they prefer to have their employees do. This needs to be worked out. Pete is taking the lead on dividing up trails.
Some of this may get into a more formal management plan with Trail Management Objectives and public meetings. But we think there’s a level where this can help without that level of detail.
7. Combining education and the trails. Two of the land managers are units of the university. This provides some major opportunities that other trail systems lack. Linkages between the trails and educational programs can be really helpful. The Farm had a 4H encampment in 2010. The College has tried to have a trail building course. It was suggested that perhaps the college could provide some arborist or similar training that might help train volunteers to help maintain the trails according to specifications (like trail management objectives). This could tie in with the Adopt-a-Trail program. The College may already have some other ideas on classes to combine with trails.
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8. Races. Many people want to see races occur, but we need to have them safely without negatively impacting other folks or at least minimizing them – either during the race or trail impacts later. State Parks already requires pre-race notices along the race course as part of their permit, but it can be a good safety suggestion for other lands. Posting signs about the race 7-10 days beforehand (catch the previous weekend’s users) gives people some warning that a race will be occurring so they can make other plans if they wanted a quiet walk or could race if they’re a racer. It also alerts people on race day that there may be some fast moving traffic. If organizers can let us know the date once they have preliminary approval, we can include it on our calendar http://www.matanuska-greenbelt.org/calendar along with a link to their website which may have a map of the race. This is a way to spread the word for potential racers as well as to let other trail users to go someplace else that day or come cheer on the racers. At the very least, this information could be posted at the most relevant trailheads. (note: these were just discussions / suggestions and aren’t mandatory, except in State Parks)
Trust me, we’re not trying to make more work for RD’s. But we do want to have both happy racers and happy general trail users. The two groups combined make for more responsible trail users to reduce the vandalism.
Race organizers and racers can volunteer with trail work. This might be easier with non-profits (insurance), but we’re looking for ways for people to help the trails where managers have limited resources.
9. The suggestion was made that perhaps the MSB parking pass for volunteers could be made available to people not in official groups who help with trail maintenance. Not everyone is a joiner, and many trees are removed by folks just getting out there doing. However, there may be issues with insurance.
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10. Much of this leads up to the question of overall trail plan. This is something where the land managers need to take the lead with organizing and having a facilitator help work through many of these issues like mixed traffic – not just various types of uses, but different skill levels and different experiences wanted. This could work well with the new MSB’s Trails and Parks Foundation coming in January. There’s been several stalled planning attempts in the past. Perhaps this time something can go forward.
---------------------------------- Miscellaneous Ideas and Thoughts ------------------------------------------
11. Consideration. Speeding bikes has come up a couple times. One mountain biker suggested that bike traffic should be one way on the wide, straight, fast stretches because of the speeds attained and possibilities of head-ons with other bikers. Newer, narrower, twistier trails promote slower speeds so direction of traffic is less of an issue. Mixed speed traffic going same direction could have bikers overrunning or at least spooking other users like horses. Any changes like that would have to be part of a general trails plan, beyond the scope of what we’re doing now.
In the meantime, please be courteous to other trail users. You are an ambassador for your sport at all times. Remember that even in races, the trails are open to the general public.
12. One suggestion was to have people report trail conditions on the website. This could be done here: http://www.matanuska-greenbelt.org/discussions (first posters need to be approved to avoid trolls). Not quite as pretty as the MatSu Ski Club’s, but functional. I can look around for something spiffier, but not a high priority for now.
13. Potential sources of funding may include Gateway Community Council, Backcountry Horsemen, Crevasse-Moraine Trail Association, and Trails and Parks Foundation. We’ll look for others as we get a better handle on what we need for trailhead signs.
14. For those not familiar with Trail Management Objectives and some other trail planning concepts, Alaska Trails has a number of documents here:
Alaska Trails is holding a Trail Rendezvous in April in southcentral Alaska which is oriented toward trail users and will discuss lots of trail issues. Deliberately vague description from me, since I don’t know the details, but am excited about some of the topics I’ve heard being proposed. I couldn’t find anything on their website, but it did come out in one of their newsletters.
15. Other opportunities for events might include something like work days (organized by land manager?) at each trailhead or some type of festival / celebration. National Public Lands Day at Campbell Creek Science Center usually has 3hrs of work in the morning, pizza for lunch, and open house at the Science Center in the afternoon where there’s a series of stations that people, especially kids, go through learning various skills or testing whatever. There were 100 at their workday and 400 at the open house this past September. It accomplishes work, networking, and gets people on the trails. Granted, they have the resources to pull off something like that, but still it’s a useful model of getting general public onto trails. The Farm had their Agriculture Appreciation Day during August which involved some trails events.
Wow, we did a lot Monday night. Details still need to get worked out on everything, including the top two priorities, but we had some pretty good interchanges of ideas. (Hmm, it has been over 5 months since our last meeting.)
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