A meeting about improving Haines’ trail system drew about 20 people Wednesday night. The group agreed that before pursuing new recreational routes, Haines needs to focus on its existing trails.
The parks and recreation advisory committee organized the meeting. They wanted to hear from people about new trails the community should pursue, or improvements that are needed on current paths.
Right away, residents said Haines should to put energy to into the trails it already has.
“We need to work on maintaining our existing trails before we start building a whole bunch of new trails,” said CJ Jones. “So that any new trails we build can also be maintained.”
Several residents said many area trails are in need of better markings. Heidi Robichaud said the last half of Seduction Point Trail in the Chilkat State Park needs work.
“I’ve many times encountered people on that trail, lightly dressed, no overnight gear or anything and that trail really kind of peters out toward the end and everyone wants to go to Seduction Point, see the view,” said Robichaud. “Aand it’s real easy to get lost down there.”
Alaska State Parks received a grant to improve the first section of Seduction Point Trail, to Moose Meadows. The department improved Battery Point Trail recently. But most Haines trails don’t get consistent maintenance. Borough manager Debra Schnabel said Haines needs to address that issue.
“We in this community really need a mechanism for maintaining our trails,” Schnabel said.
Two Haines hikers, Paul Swift and Anne Boyce, used to do regular improvements on trails like Mount Ripinsky and Mount Riley. But they eased back from their volunteer work a few years ago.
Residents who spoke out agreed that the first step to improving trails is just installing adequate markers.
Assembly member Ron Jackson said the borough bought reflective metal trail markers a couple years ago, but they haven’t been installed.
State Parks ranger Travis Russell said his department doesn’t have enough local manpower to prioritize marking the trails.
“I think marking it is obviously the first step,” Russell said. “It wouldn’t cost us a whole lot, because we already have [markers], it’s just simply time.”
Assembly member Heather Lende brought up a non-profit trail stewardship organization in Juneau called Trail Mix.
“In Haines we could maybe do one that’s a hybrid that involves hiking groups, skiing groups, snowmachine groups, four-wheelers,” Lende said. “You could have a lot of areas of expertise. And it might be a way to gain funding for the maintenance.”
Trail Mix has a paid director and about a dozen seasonal crew members. Director Erik Boraas says the organization is funded through memberships, grants and agreements with the U.S. Forest Service and City and Borough of Juneau. Boraas says Trail Mix formed out of the need for a cross-agency group to work with the patchwork of trail landowners.
The Haines committee talked about the idea of holding a workshop where Park Ranger Russell could instruct volunteers in how to properly mark trails. They didn’t take official action, because the gathering was an informal workshop.
There was also some talk about potential new trails. But Russell warned that because of environmental reviews, that’s a lengthy process.