FAIRBANKS — With the start of the rerouted Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race less than two weeks away, volunteers in Tanana spent Thursday working to clear the river trail for the dog teams.
Earlier this month, the Iditarod Trail Committee’s Board of Directors voted to move the restart of the race to Fairbanks because of poor conditions on some parts of the trail from Willow. The new route includes the Interior villages of Nenana, Manley Hot Springs, Tanana, Huslia and Koyukuk, and preparations are well underway throughout Interior Alaska.
This week, volunteers in Tanana, which was a stop in 2015 when that race began in Fairbanks, are set to work.
“We haven’t had an organizational meeting yet, but we’ve done this before,” said Patrick Moore, the president of the dog mushers association and a city councilman in Tanana.
He said one of the big local efforts is preparing the trail on the river, an effort the community decided to take on.
“The river froze up real rough around here and we’re using a (Caterpillar) to get the first 8 miles out of town,” he said. “The ice froze up really crazy around here and there’s a lot of jumbled ice and we’re using a Cat to put the trail in.”
Chas St. George, chief operations officer of the Iditarod Trail Committee, said equipment and drop bags containing food and supplies for the mushers are already arriving in many communities. He said Mark Nordman, the race marshal and race director, is out meeting with communities, but said many, like Tanana, are already getting to work.
St. George said communities along the route have been extremely helpful in getting ready for the quick change, and there were many lessons learned from 2015 when the race was last started from Fairbanks.
“It’s just like Fairbanks, where we sat down in the room and talked about best practices and stuff,” he said. “Those guys were mobilized very quickly, and it’s the same way in Tanana, Manley and all the other points on our the trail. They’re looking at how we can make this a better experience this time around. They’re out doing these things because they know their community better than anybody else.”
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.