FAIRBANKS — A month ago, the three-mile dirt bike path along Sheep Creek Road resembled more of a single-track trail than it did a bike path.
“It was getting to the point where it was single-file riding, weaving down the trail to make it through without getting hit in the face (with brush),” said Joel Buth, owner of Goldstream Sports on Sheep Creek Road.
That’s not the case anymore. In preparation for the upcoming winter and ensuing snowfall, the Alaska Department of Transportation recently cleared brush along it and several other bike paths around Fairbanks. DOT removed brush along approximately 35 miles of bike paths, spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said.
“This was done to improve sight distance and safety for individuals using the path,” Bailey wrote in an email.
In addition to Sheep Creek Road, other bike paths that received a makeover included Badger Road, Ballaine Road, Bradway Road, Farmers Loop, McGrath Road, Parks Highway and Sheep Creek Road.
In the case of the Sheep Creek Road bike path, it was long overdue, said Buth, who regularly rides that route. Overhanging brush had created a sort of tunnel effect that would have been compounded when snow fell.
“You wouldn’t have been able to get through it in the winter,” said Buth, who called DOT to request the brush cutting. “The snow in the trees would have closed it. It’ll make it much more usable this winter.”
DOT received about $10,000 to cut the brush, Bailey said.
“This year we received some deferred maintenance funding, so we were able to cut brush on all of the bike paths we are responsible for in the Fairbanks area,” she said. “This did not cover the cost of brushing all paths but allowed us to expend some extra effort to achieve our goals.”
The department’s plan is to clear brush along the bike paths every two to three years, Bailey said.
DOT also spent $80,000 rebuilding about a one-mile section of the paved Ballaine Road bike path between Goldstream Road and Goldstream Creek. That section of the bike path was dotted with frost heaves that
basically made it unridable in the summer months.
DOT did not rip up the pavement but instead placed gravel on top of the path to level the surface and return it to as close to the original level as possible, Bailey said.
There is no plan to pave it, she said.
“The soil in this area is so poor and the frost heaves change frequently enough that it will easier for us to maintain the gravel surface,” Bailey said.
Next summer, DOT will repave the bike path along Chena Pump Road and do maintenance on the bike path along the Johansen Expressway, Bailey said.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.