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  • Writer's pictureLee Hart

Challenge: Get Dirt on a Legislator this Summer

Talking to elected leaders is as easy as getting them on your turf, talking about what you love

Legislators Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and Andy Josephson share thoughts during Alaska's annual outdoor industry conference in Talkeetna in 2019.

During Great Outdoors Month, and all the way through July, trail enthusiasts should take time to invite local and state elected officials to get on the trail bandwagon.

In August, the legislature will be considering how to spend Alaska’s $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Two proposals introduced during regular session would invest in outdoor recreation jobs that create economic opportunity. The proposals are complimentary: the statewide civilian conservation corps, will help train and create skilled trail workers who could be hired to help to get to work linking trail segments to connect Seward to Fairbanks which, when complete, would create the 500-mile Alaska Long Trail.

Every vote in the legislature counts, so no matter where you live, invite legislators and/or their staff to join you to walk a trail and talk about why trails are so important to you, your friends, family and community. We have not yet met an Alaska legislator that does not recreate outdoors in some way. Mountain bike advocates, be sure to provide a bike and helmet for your elected representatives and let them experience the fun of an easy, local bike trail - unless they are already a known shredder! Legislators might even be willing to get their hands dirty, in a publicity-friendly way, by joining with other volunteers to help maintain or build trails, or at classic shovel-wielding ground-breaking or grand opening ceremonies. Invite local newspaper and radio reporters to these occasions. If they can’t come, ask if they would accept and publish your photos. If that sounds daunting at least post your images to websites and tag the legislator in social media posts.

Funding for the statewide CCC and Long Trail, combined with approval of a Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation budget that beefs up outdoor recreation grant programs, would represent the single largest investment in outdoor recreation in Alaska in decades. You can bet legislators will be hearing from a multitude of constituents with ideas on how to spend the ARPA funds. Why not us? Together, by keeping our needs on legislators’ radar in fun, meaningful and visible ways, we can make sure that the CCC, Long Trail and State Parks budget requests win approval.

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