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  • Writer's pictureLee Hart

Need Outpaces Capacity: Statewide Survey of Outdoor Priority Projects Top $207 Million

Outdoor recreation infrastructure funding needs a serious boost

Today, Alaska Outdoor Alliance released the results of a statewide call to collect key outdoor recreation infrastructure projects in need of funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and other federal sources.

With the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act last year, Alaska expects to receive $2.5 million in LWCF projects which can be used to leverage state and local investments in outdoor recreation projects. Yet continued investment in these much-needed natural spaces is now in jeopardy, according to AOA Executive Director Lee Hart. The pandemic has crushed state and local budgets that are struggling to match federal dollars used to support public lands and parks.

AOA’s call for projects netted more than $207 million in outdoor infrastructure projects from 30 communities. Though far from comprehensive, the response demonstrates the tremendous need for funding to create and improve outdoor access at the community level at a time when jobs and revitalization through the outdoors are needed most.

“We called on the outdoor industry community to identify projects in need of funding that would have tangible recreational and economic impacts in local communities – and the response was overwhelming,” said AOA’s executive director Lee Hart. “Outdoor recreation infrastructure is critical infrastructure that will benefit our residents and visitors for years to come. Improvements to recreational access can help Alaska’s rural communities appeal to the rise of newly mobile and location-neutral workers as the pandemic has created a wave of office downsizing and closures.”

Hart was pleased by Governor Dunleavy's inclusion of $13.2 million for the Alaska Long Trail (depicted in graphic above) in a proposed General Obligation Bond package but noted that while an encouraging sign, it represents a fraction of the statewide need. Excerpted from AOA’s call for top priority infrastructure projects, those summarized below demonstrate a diversity of scope, location, user groups and seasons. See the full list.

Anchorage: Arctic Valley Ski Area Upgrades

Recreation Supported: skiing, snowboarding, tubing, hiking

Cost: $1,9400,000

Overview: Improvements include replacing an aging surface lift, building a new equipment & maintenance garage, and purchasing materials to construct three public use cabins. Non-profit Anchorage Ski Club runs the ski area under contract with Alaska State Parks.

City of Dillingham: Small Boat Harbor Float Replacement

Recreation Supported: Recreational boating and commercial fishing

Cost: $5,200,000

Overview: This “shovel-ready” project would improve water access for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters in Bristol Bay.

Fairbanks: US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/Information Center

Recreation Supported: Hiking, Hunting, Fishing, Wildlife Viewing, Public Information, Education

Cost: $8M from LWCF land acquisition; $18M from FWS New Construction

Overview: Provide information about recreational opportunities on Arctic, Yukon Flats and Kanuti National Wildlife Refuges; connect people to nature; provide indoor and outdoor outreach and education opportunities; provide public access to communicate with Refuge staff (ex. tribal consultation); conserve and interpret high-value wetlands; provide office lease space cost savings of over $1,000,000 annually.

Igiugig Village Council: Float Plane Access Road

Recreation Supported: fly-in hunting, fishing, camping, tourism

Cost: $1,000,000

Overview. The river is currently the only place where float planes can land, yet crosswinds pose dangerous hazards. The project will extend to a safe landing area for visitors arriving by floatplane.

City & Borough of Juneau: OHV Trail System

Recreation supported: motorized trail enthusiasts

Cost: $500,000

Overview: Develop a variety of trails and other sustainable riding experiences to meet increasing demand and reduce damage to environmentally sensitive areas.

Ketchikan: Borough Sports Field Upgrades

Recreation Supported: Youth and Adult team sports

Cost: $6,700,000

Overview: Work to develop the Borough's sports fields to meet accessibility and Title IX criteria per the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Sports Fields Usage & Development Study. Projects include parking, new restrooms, field & drainage upgrades, new lighting, and realigning a field to meet high school/American Legion size requirements, new grandstands, media booth, restrooms, and concessions.

Klawock/Sealaska Corp.: Trail Upgrades

Recreation Supported: Subsistence, general outdoor recreation

Cost: $150,000

Overview: One Duke and Swan Song Trail improvements including extension, surfacing, signage, benches and fire pits.

Mat-Su Borough: Government Peak Traverse Trail

Recreation Supported: hiking, biking.

Cost: $2M

Overview: Build a 12-mile hike and bike trail connecting Hatcher Pass, Skeetawk ski area, Government Peak Rec Area. Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska State Parks.

Nome: Covered all-season ice rink

Recreation Supported: youth and adult hockey, basketball, games

Cost: $1,000,000

Overview: The current ice rink is being displaced for another project so the city is planning for a new covered ice rink that also can be used in the summer for basketball and other games.

Seward: Glacier Discovery Project

Recreation Supported: camping, hiking, skiing, outdoor education, tourism

Cost: $2,200,000

Overview: Hut system connecting Seward & Girdwood. Partners include US Forest Service, Alaska Railroad and non-profit Alaska Huts.

Sitka: Price Street Neighborhood Connector

Recreation Supported: bike, walk, cross country ski

Cost: $1,200,000

Overview: Short connector trail providing 270 families direct access to a local multi-modal trail system. Sitka Trail Works.

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