Pinnell Mountain Trail

Leslie Merriman takes a break along he rocky crest of the Pinnell Mountain Trail on a sunny June day. The high alpine traverse winds 27-miles through the Steese National Conservation Area from Eagle Summit to Twelvemile Summit with a good portion above 4,000-feet.

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking volunteers to help with restoration and rehabilitation work planned for the Pinnell Mountain Recreational Trail near Eagle Summit this summer. Nearly 2 miles of the trail and 8 acres of surrounding tundra were significantly compromised by caribou hunters on ATVs last fall.

The BLM is coordinating an event for the weekend of June 5 (which is National Trails Day), and is calling for people to help with trail work on both Saturday and Sunday. For most of the month of June, a five member Student Conservation Association crew will spend three weeks working on the trail. Another big restoration effort is scheduled for the end of the student crew’s work period, on June 26. BLM Park Ranger Teri Balser said that the hope is that at the end of the three weeks the trail will be opened to use.

According to Balser, repair work will include smoothing out the ruts, redirecting water, adding drainages and installing a boardwalk to elevate hikers over the wet tundra. Rehabilitative work will also be done on about 1.75 acres of tundra surrounding the trail. This will involve smoothing the ruts, diverting water to prevent erosion and seeding to promote vegetation growth.

Roughly 8 acres of tundra were destroyed by motorized vehicles, but only a portion of that will be repaired by BLM. This is because in some areas the tundra damage extends beyond the 100-foot nonmotorized easement; land outside the easement is owned by the State, which as of right now has no restoration plans.

The Pinnell Trail was damaged when large numbers of hunters flocked to the area after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game doubled the bag limit for the Fortymile Caribou Herd. Hunters drove ATVs on about 1.75 miles onto the nonmotorized trail. The vehicles left deep ruts and muddy bogs in the trail and surrounding tundra, rendering the trail both an eyesore and, in places, nearly impassable.

Individuals or groups interested in helping with trail work should email Pinnellmountaintrail@blm.gov or to call the Fairbanks BLM office at (907) 474-2200.

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 459-7544