This story ran in the March edition of the Interior Trails Newsletter.
At its February 11 meeting, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Planning Commission voted 7-1 to approve an appeal for a variance request from dedicated trail easements involving portions of some Alaska Dog Mushers Association trails. Local trail advocates disagree on whether that decision is good for trails.
The request, which was made by John Wros of The Conservation Fund, was originally denied by the FNSB Platting Board. Wros appealed to the commission.
Local trail advocates disagree on whether the variance should have been approved. Those who opposed the variance believe it will unnecessarily put some of the trails at risk and will set a bad precedence for trails involved in future subdivisions. Those supporting the variance believe it will ultimately protect the trails involved as well as large chunks of land from development.
Briefly, the University of Alaska and The Conservation Fund are trying to make a land deal that would expand Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge by 160 acres to the west. Both entities asked for the trail easement variance. That land deal would allow another, smaller, plot of land to be added to the refuge. (And possibly another one as well.) A few of the westernmost Alaska Dog Mushers Association trails cross the lands involved. A majority of the ADMA trails are on refuge land already. The UA-Conservation Fund land deal requires subdividing a larger piece of land. With any subdivision, borough code requires dedicated easements for trails included in the FNSB Comprehensive Recreational Trails Plan. The ADMA trails are included in that plan.
The issue is highly complicated and was outlined in two Interior Alaska Trails blog posts, one on December 10 (https://tinyurl.com/r29c5vx) and one on February 7 (https://tinyurl.com/wbh8xph). (The editor of this newsletter also wrote the blog posts.)
While the appeal of the trail easements variance was approved, the land deal is not done with borough boards. The subdivision application, which has another variance request regarding whether a survey needs to be done, goes back to the Platting Board. That request is on the board’s March 18 agenda. However, the subdivision can take place with or without survey variance request being approved. Once that is all done, then the land deal has to take place.
So, trails involved in the land deal are not yet protected in the refuge, but things are looking good that they will be. Trails that will not be included in the refuge will remain without easements.