Fairbanks area trails need your help!
There are rumblings that the Borough’s Comprehensive Recreational Trails Plan update may face opposition when it comes up for a vote at this coming Assembly meeting on Thursday (Nov. 10).
If not enough support is shown for the trail plan, it’s possible it may fail. If you support the plan update, please make sure to let the Assembly know one of these ways (starting with the most effective):
- Testify in person at the Assembly meeting on Thursday (see how below)
- Testify by Zoom at the Assembly meeting (see how below)
- Call one or more Assembly members (contact info below)
- Send an email to one or more Assembly members (contact info below)
Whatever you do, please be respectful. Just because someone has concerns about the trails plan doesn’t mean those concerns don’t have some validity. And it doesn’t mean those people are bad. They just have a different point of view. Respect that, and simply let them know your point of view. Hopefully, that will sway them a bit.
ATTEND AN ASSEMBLY MEETING
Go to the borough administrative center at 907 Terminal Street. The Assembly Chambers are on the first floor straight across from the double doors at the entrance. There will be a signup sheet at the door for testifying.
You can find an agenda of the meeting here:
Adoption of the Trails Plan is Ordinance 2022-47. It’s toward the beginning of the meeting.
To find out more about attending, including how to attend by Zoom see this webpage:
CALL OR SEND AN EMAIL
Calling has more impact than an email, but both are important. See how to contact the Assembly here:
POSSIBLE POINTS TO BRING UP
- The plan update process has been extensive. It included several public meetings and a user-friendly website that was up for months where people could comment.
- The plan needs updating. It was first adopted in 1985 and has not had an overall update since. Lots has changed since then including how trails are built, public interest in trails, and overall development in the borough.
- New trail building practices are better. The plan emphasizes the need for sustainable trail construction that reduces erosion and make trails easier to use and maintain. Sustainable trail building practices have come a long way since 1985.
- Proper planning helps trails and home values. Many trails have been lost, such as on Chena Ridge and in Goldstream Valley, because of a lack of planning. Development could have happened in those and others places in conjunction with the development of trails, which studies show add value to property.
- Trails help keep us healthier. Many people love getting out on trails, which gets them outside and exercising. Studies show both exercise and getting outside help improve our physical and mental health.
- Trails are low-cost, high-access. Public-access trails are public facilities that are free to use and cost little to maintain. They give us a lot of bang for the buck.
- Trails add to our economy. Trail users buy products that help them get out on the trails. Many visitors come to Interior Alaska largely to experience the Alaskan wilderness. Trails help them connect with that wilderness.
I have not heard what the opposition might be, but opposition to trails often involves concerns about public spending or crossing private property. Sometimes people are concerned about plans obligating future assemblies. I don’t see any of those being a concern with this trail plan. The plan guides future borough action, it does not mandate that future assemblies spend any money or take any action. It makes recommendations and guides borough staff on ways to spend funding if and only if the assembly approves it.
A FEW MORE POSSIBLE POINTS
- The plan respects and avoids private property. From the plan: “Private property was avoided to every extent possible when adding trails to the updated trail plan.” Some trails from the 1985 plan do cross private property. That plan had a public process and landowners at the time could oppose trails that cross their property. Some did and trails were removed. Others were fine with trails being in the plan. (The plan requires that certain trails on the plan be given an easement if and only if the land is subdivided.)
- The plan does not commit future assemblies. It is a plan. It helps guides borough staff if and only if future assemblies decide to spend the money.
- Most trail funding does not come from the borough. It comes from federal grant programs, such as the Recreational Trails Program (which is actually money that comes back to the state from off-highway vehicle gas taxes). In order to use those funds the borough must pay a percentage match. For example, RTP grants require only a 10 percent match. Yes, that does require borough spending, but it gets us much more than we spend. And, again, the Assembly must approve such spending.