UAF Trails Plan, May 2000 Executive Summary
The issues addressed by this plan and the plan's recommendations on each issue are summarized below.
What facilities and amenities, if any, are needed?
In the next 2 years, this plan calls for finishing lights on the Potato Field, placing vehicle barriers, placing wood chips and boardwalks in wet areas, painting the warming hut, refurbishing the main trailhead kiosk, installing similar kiosk at Ballaine Lake, Sheep Creek (near Whizzy Loop) and at the Main Campus Trailhead opposite Wickersham Hall, and installing Trail Name, one-way trail and trail intersection signs.
Over the next 5 to 10 years, light the road to the T-field. Give further study to the following projects: building a bird blind at Smith Lake, building a trailhead and parking lot near Miller Hill and Sheep Creek, relocating the main trailhead at the northwest corner of the IARC parking lot.
What new trails, if any, are needed?
Over the next two years, this plan recommends finishing the Midnight Express Loop, brushing a Commuter Trail north of the farm, establishing a separated winter pedestrian path under the powerline next to the T-field Road, widening the Base Line Trail, and linking the Museum to the Calypso Nature Trail and the Botanical Gardens with attractive signs.
Within the next 3 years or less, a multipurpose trail to main campus should be constructed.
Over the next 5 years, this plan recommends encircling the campus with bike paths. If/when lights are added to the T-field, relocate the T-field ski trail so that it is closer to the power line.
What areas, if any, should be off-limits to new trails? The Arboretum. No changes to the Arboretum Trails are recommended.
What uses, if any, should be allowed in winter? This was by far the hottest issue and the answer varies by trail.
What uses, if any, should be prohibited in summer? Motorized uses would be prohibited on all trails. Authorized vehicles would be permitted on the road to the T-field.
Which trails, if any, are priorities for lighting? The T-field Road.
Which trails, if any, should not have lights? Trails in the Arboretum.
Access and Parking
What new trail parking and access areas, if any, should be constructed? None at the current time. Study the feasibility and impacts of a parking area and trailhead at Miller Hill and Sheep Creek.
What should be done to facilitate parking? Post information that parking without a decal is permitted on West Ridge after 5 and on weekends.
What signs and amenities should be available at each trailhead? General rules, maps, parking information.
How should trails be identified? With trail name signs and maps at trail intersections.
Where should trail signs be located? Only at the start of trails.
How many signs, in general, should be used? A minimum number of signs.
What, if any, interpretive signs should be installed?
What type of maintenance is required and how will it be authorized?
Do the majority of the UAF trail users support the recommendations of this plan? If the survey results are representative of the users, the answer is yes.
To reach as many stakeholders as possible, Tim Mowry put a discussion about the web survey in the Outdoor Section of the News Miner, we put an announcement on the Pine email server, and we sent email messages to over 50 people asking them to pass the word. In addition to this, we put flyers up where they might be seen by trail enthusiasts and each flyer had tear-off tags with the web address on them. Flyers were placed in every building on campus, at each of the three main trail heads, at Safeway and Fred Meyers, the animal feed stores (where horse and dog owners might see them), Beaver Sports, All Weather Sports, the snowmachine/ATV outlets, the Fairbanks Visitor Center, Birch Hill Recreation Area, the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, and at Creamer's Field (for more on the survey results and the later List Serve discussion, see page 11 and Appendix A).
The listserve discussion correlated with the web survey, in which 36% strongly agreed with prohibiting dogs, and only 12% strongly disagreed. A total of 61% either agreed or strongly agreed, while only 22% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Based on these results plus the listserve, it seems reasonable to disallow dogs on the groomed ski trails in winter.
Dogs WOULD be allowed on the multiple use trails, the ring road and the road to the farm as well as skijor loops around the fields (see Map 5 at the back of this document). Maps of these trails will be placed at each trailhead.
To further explain the restriction, we will place photos of the grooming equipment and the "Zamboni" analogy (p.22) at each trailhead. Perhaps if people understand who built the trails, who pays to maintain them, and the amount of work it takes to maintain them, they will be more inclined to view this as fair and to comply with it.
The majority of the web survey respondents were also opposed to walking on the groomed ski trails. In the web survey, 34% strongly agreed with prohibiting walking while only 17% strongly disagreed. A total of 48% either agreed or strongly agreed with prohibiting walking, while only 32% disagreed or strongly disagreed to such a restriction (and many of those who disagreed were probably unaware of who built the trails, who pays for most of the maintenance or that every trail requires 7 passes per week with expensive trail grooming equipment). Many skiers pointed out that almost no pedestrians were on the trails during the late 80s and early 90s when the trails were not groomed consistently.
Since 1998, the Nordic Ski Club paid over $9, 500 maintaining and purchasing equipment just for the UAF trails. The Club stated that they would quit paying their share of the trail grooming and maintenance (currently they pay more than half of the cost;) if pedestrians and dogs were allowed to "ruin" the trails.
To strike a balance between these two extremes, this plan proposes experimenting with a separate but parallel pedestrian path along the road to the T-field and from the road, across Smith Lake to the Sheep Creek bike path. An old trail north of the Ring Road will also be brushed out (see Map 5 at the back of this document).
The only place there is likely to be a conflict is along the separated path next to the T-field Road. Education and signs will be necessary to encourage pedestrians to remain strictly on the separated path, to keep dogs on leashes, and to clean up after their dogs. After the winter of 2000-2001, if this policy turns out to be unworkable and pedestrians and dogs really are badly damaging the ski trails, the policy should be reworked.