To the editor: Welcome news for hikers is the governor’s recent proposal to fund parts of a multi-million-dollar Alaska Long Trail stretching from Seward to Fairbanks. Support for the trail plan seems to be motivated partially by the prospect of attracting more active outdoor tourists to Alaska. Hooray for that. But if the state, and perhaps federal, governments are ready to spend millions on a new trail, why not spend a fraction of that to maintain our outstanding local trails?
On the federal side, one example is the Wickersham Dome hiking trail, which is a mere 28 miles from Fairbanks out the Elliott Highway. At this time of year on the dome, hikers can see abundant summer birds and flowers, but getting there requires wading through a mile of mud and fending off a thousand alder and birch branches. Yes, this is an authentic Alaska hiking experience; however, if it was better maintained, the trail would be more attractive to Interior Alaska visitors and local hiking families alike.
This is a Bureau of Land Management trail. Perhaps in the future there should be increased emphasis on foot travel in the BLM’s White Mountains management plan, along with additional support in the federal budget for building and maintaining hiking trails. This will not only increase Alaska’s attractiveness as a destination for active tourists, but also enhance the outdoor experiences of local hikers.