How the Plan Was Developed
"Bless you for trying to intelligently plan and use the wonderful greenspace which is much more important to a community than a McDonald's or Freds."
Three Public Meetings
A public scoping meeting was led by students of my planning class on October 13, 1998. The meeting was open to the public, but representatives of several user groups were specifically invited to be sure that a wide diversity of users were present. Attendees included John Estle (former ski coach), Rocky Riffenstuhl (biking), Don Pendergrast (skiing, running, & interpretation), Mary Shields (Nature Tour operator), Scott Heidorn (snowmobiling),Tony Gasbarro (multiple uses), Jane Parrish (skiing and running), Deb Wells (UAF Master Planning), Susan Todd (Trails Committee).
A second meeting was held in November 1998 (see Newspaper Article, Appendix B) to discuss the Alternatives Dr. Todd's planning class had developed. Five alternatives were presented for comment and each alternative followed a theme. These included:
Alternative A. No Change
Alternative B. Emphasis on Research and Nature Education
Alternative C. Emphasis on Skiing in Winter/ Running, Hiking, Biking, Walking in Summer
Alternative D. Emphasis on Multiple Use, including snowmachines.
These alternatives were intended to be more theoretical "what if" models than real proposals, in order to stimulate public comment and help determine what is really most important. Alternative D was highly controversial, Alternative C generated considerable discussion, and Alternatives A and B received very little comment.
This information was used to refine the issues and to develop the Trails Survey that was placed on the web in May 1999. In June, 1999, Susan Todd completed a draft Trails Plan based on the initial survey responses as well as the two public meetings. The draft was reviewed by the Master Planning committee and several comments were obtained for use in developing a second draft.
In the fall of 1999, a second NRM 430 class took on the project. They placed flyers all over town to advertise the reopening of the Trails Survey and held a third public meeting on December, 1999 to discuss the Survey Results and the issues that had been identified (these issues are the headings in the body of this plan).
1999 UAF Trail User Survey
A web survey on trail use at UAF was conducted during two separate periods in 1999. The survey was open for 3 weeks in May and June during which 54 surveys were submitted. The survey was closed at that point to wait until students and faculty returned in the fall. In October, 1999 the survey was reopened and advertised extensively through flyers and an announcement in the Outdoor section of the Daily News Miner. Three $10 gift certificates donated by Beaver Sports were offered as prizes for submitting a survey. During the period of one week, 188 surveys were added to the original 54, despite the fact that unexpected remodeling activities resulted in the server being down for most of four of the seven days. Not only did this large group respond in a hurry to a long survey, they ALSO WROTE 401 paragraphs containing 11,781 words!! (see Survey Comments organized by topic. They are fun and interesting to read--honest!).
To advertise the survey, flyers with tear-off tabs bearing the web address 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), the snowmachine outlets, the Fairbanks Visitor Center, Birch Hill Recreation Area, the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, and at Creamer's Field. See the Survey Results for more information.
Over 70% of the 242 respondents were affiliated with the University, while 27% were from the Fairbanks area, and two were former UAF staff living outside Fairbanks at the moment. Within the University affiliates, 51% were students, 27% staff, and 22% faculty. We expected to find extensive use by families, but over 75% of the respondents never or seldom take children under 12 with them.
The survey indicates that the trails are heavily used. The respondents use the trails more in the winter than in the summer, with the majority using the trails more than 12 times each month, year-round. The survey indicates that the respondents alone may be generating some 1300 user days per month in the summer, and at least 1800 user days per month in the winter. This is a substantial level of use for a trail system of this size and, because 1) only a portion of total users were sampled, and 2) the maximum use they could indicate was ">12 times per month", this is likely to considerably underestimate the actual level of use.
Respondents could choose among 12 different types of uses (including classic skiing, walking, skate skiing, biking, jogging/running, commuting, educational uses, ice skating, no use , research, snowmobiling, horseback riding, and "other").
Most users enjoy more than one activity. Almost 90% of respondents participate in at least two activities, half the respondents take part in at least four activities, and some enjoy at least seven different uses (such as running, biking, walking, skiing, etc.). It should be pointed out, however, that there are other uses that were not listed, such as bird watching, that do take place and are not accounted for here. There are also "illegal" uses, such as four-wheel driving, that were not reported.
The most popular activity on the UAF trails is classic skiing, with 184 of the 242 respondents taking part in this activity. Walking was the next most popular. Skate skiing, biking, and running each account for slightly more than half of the use. Almost 20% of the respondents use the trails for commuting, 13% use them for educational purposes, 4% for research, and very few of the sample use the trails for snowmobiling and horseback riding.
Most of the respondents (72%) either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement "Do NOT construct any new trails on campus" which indicates that they feel new trails CAN be considered. About one-quarter of the sample were neutral, and only 3 out of 242 strongly agreed that no new trails should be built on campus.
The most popular new trail proposal was the commuter trail from Sheep Creek to West Ridge. A bike path along West Tanana south of the farm, a year-round pedestrian path, a path south of Butrovitch along Tanana Loop and finishing the Midnight Express were also popular. A Bike Path along Loftus Extension, and a Trail to West Ridge had the lowest scores.
Signs were by far the most popular new facility proposal, followed by kiosks, boardwalks, and a maintenance shop. With the aid of 20/20 hindsight, it is obvious that trail lighting should have been a question on the survey. That is an unfortunate because in the open ended comments, it was mentioned several times.
There are currently two trash receptacles in the area, one at the ski hut and one at the Ballaine Lake trailhead which is maintained by the state Dept. of Transportation. As shown in Appendix A (Table 11) 124 respondents agreed or strongly agreed with no additional litter collection system, while 52 were neutral and 60 disagreed. The statement concerning "take only memories" was not universally appealing. One student commented, "I don't mind no litter service, but I think the proposed sign about memories and foot prints is really offensive."
The respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with different proposals for prohibited uses. With the exception of snowmachines, vehicles and horses, all of the suggested prohibited uses would only apply to groomed ski trails.
Prohibiting snowmachines had an average score of 1.44 (where 1=agree and 2=strongly agree) and was favored by 206, or 85% of the 241 respondents who answered that question. Approximately 66% of the sample favored prohibiting both motorized vehicles and horses in winter. Sixty-three percent either agreed or strongly agreed to the proposal to prohibit bicycles and 60% oppose dogs on the groomed trails. Slightly less than half (48%) favored prohibiting pedestrians on the groomed trails.
When asked to rate their level of agreement with the statement, "All unauthorized motorized vehicles would be prohibited—only official vehicles for research and maintenance would be allowed in the summer," 88% of the sample either strongly agreed or agreed and there was similar support for prohibiting ATVs in the summer. Asked about closing wet trail areas to all uses until they were dry, only 42% of the sample either agreed or strongly agreed.
The sample respondents did not favor closing the trails to horses in the summer. Almost 39% opposed this and another 43% had no opinion, while only 8% strongly agreed with prohibiting horseback riding in the summer.
UAF Trails 1999 User Survey Results
March 2, 2000 Message from Chair Susan Todd
A web survey on trail use at UAF was conducted during two seperate periods in 1999. The survey was open for 3 weeks in May and June during which 54 surveys were submitted. The survey was closed at that point to wait until students and faculty returned in the fall. In October, 1999 the survey was reopened and advertised extensively through flyers and an announcement in the Outdoor section of the Daily News Miner. Three $10 gift certificates to Beaver Sports were offered as prizes for submitting a survey. During the period of one week, 183 surveys were added to the original despite the fact that unexpected remodeling activities resulted in the server being down for most of four of the seven days.
To advertise the survey, flyers with tear-off tabs bearing the web address 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), the snowmachine outlets, the Fairbanks Visitor Center, Birch Hill Recreation Area, the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, and at Creamer's Field. The gift certificate winners were Michael Whalen, Carl Hemming, and a person who hasn't picked their certificate up yet (I drew again and let the new winner know by email I'll announce their name as soon as I hear from them). Many thanks to Beaver Sports for providing them!
This data will be used in putting together a draft Trails Plan that will be presented to the UAF Master Planning Committee on March 16. I have summarized the results as quickly as I could, so if you see a mistake etc, please let me know and I will fix it. I'm doing my best and this is a one-woman show, so don't be too fussy!! ;-)
Chair, UAF Trails Committee
(aka "colorful reading") These are very interesting! The respondents had a lot to say!!