A first priority of the Matanuska Greenbelt Trails Association was to create a map suitable for trail users and to set up a signage program to assist trail users with navigating the 33 miles of urban spaghetti loop trails, which can be confusing – even to experienced users.In 2014--2015 we added post ID tags to the posts to help people identify where they are in case of an emergency. The post number and lat/long are on the post, and maps and tables of these locations are on our Events page (help with race / event emergency planning). Gates were also numbered to facilitate logistics for race / event planning and emergency responders.
The Matanuska Experiment Farm had a GIS base which included trails their techs and students had GPS’d over the years and overlaid that on MSB imagery. Those trails were enhanced with widths and a color scheme which portrayed information about the trail structure, like single or wide track. Property boundaries were included so people would be aware of different owners and potentials for projects or activities. Originally the map was just available in .pdf format, but we have been experimenting with interactive maps for desktops and mobile devices. Our map page has the various maps.
A logo went through many iterations – begun by
Mat-Su College and finalized by Alaska State Parks, with input from numerous
people along the way. The birch tree and trail overarch the individual land
owners logo providing a unified symbology for the MGT which also respected the
individual land owner.
A Buy a Post program was started in 2009 to raise funds for posts and signs for the intersections. A donor would contribute $100 toward the cost of a post and signs and, in return, a donor plate with their desired inscription would be attached to a post. Each post plus sign plus hardware cost about $135, not counting labor of installing the post, designing the sign, drafting it, and installing it. Land owners donated labor for most of the heavy work of installing posts while volunteers did the tedious work of trying to figure out what should go on the signs. Additional funds were obtained by a MSB Bed-Tax Grant and VMBaH’s Mooseberry Stampede mountain bike race. The project was hugely successful and expanded from a thin line between Crevasse-Moraine Trailhead and Matanuska Lake Trailhead to signing all intersections on the official trails (except for those expected to be lost to the landfill shortly).
The posts generally followed State Parks’ standard for non-motorized trails of 8in x 8in x 6.7ft all weather wood with 4 ft above ground. We used 6in x 8in posts (used guardrails donated by DOT from construction projects) where we only needed signs on two opposite sides.
Signs were 7.5in x 9.5in and attached at the four corners. They generally pointed to at least two trailheads as well as some other significant trail. The logo was at the bottom of each sign.
The Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation awarded a grant in 2011 for trailhead and gateway signs to provide maps as well as contact, location, etiquette, and background information at the trailheads and some key intersections throughout the system. A dozen gateway signs (8.5 x 11.5) with map, “you are here”, and contact information were placed at major intersections, especially as you enter from one landowner to another.
Most importantly this last grant provided funds for materials for four trailhead structures and signs. State Parks donated the structures for their trailheads. This provides the trailhead name. When following the directional signs to get back to your car, that’s the name to follow. It also provides a map with trail names to help users unfamiliar with the area to learn where the various trails are. They also contain contact information, expectations of landowners and trail etiquette, plus background information on the system and approximate distances to the other trailheads. Note that the area is fairly hilly, so plan time accordingly.
We anticipate more directional signs will be needed as more trails are built. At that time, we will probably reopen the Buy a Post program. It was so successful that we ran out of decent places to put posts and signs.
These projects could not have happened without the support from grants and private donors as well as volunteers and collaborators.