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January 27, 2011

Happy Trails to You

Yesterday I took Raudi for a spin, and a mile out, turned left onto what I call the Middle Murphy Road Trail Loop. Hikers, mountain bikers, ATVers, cross-country skiers, and swamp buggy users use this trail to access the nearby Matanuska Moose Range. It’s also a four-mile long corridor trail, and as such, it connects the Murphy Road and Wendt Road communities.

My side of the trail winds its way through a birch and spruce forest. I sometimes see moose, who watch as I pass by. When the sun’s shining, I have a wonderful view of the nearby Talkeetna Range. I don’t venture onto this trail on weekends, holidays, or late afternoons because I fear that I may have an encounter with an irresponsible trail user. My favorite day of the year to ride is actually Superbowl Sunday because it’s the day in which most people are inside.

The trail that I speak of is now fairly wide, about seven feet across. This year, the cross country ski groomers have been like little beavers, cutting back the brush, so that there’s enough room for the skaters to get some glide. I’m glad to see skiers use these trails. However, widening the trails has contributed to the development of what is now a winter multi-use trail system. And of course, because this is state land, we all think we have the right to be out there. The main problem right now is that we all travel at differing speeds. For example, horses move slowly in comparison to snowmobiles. I cannot outrun them, and when I’m in a heavily treed area, I can’t move off the trail. Conversely, horses are faster than cross-country skiers, who must then move out of my path.

What’s the answer? I recently wrote the first draft of the trail chapter for the Moose-Creek Soapstone Comprehensive Plan. It includes maps, a history of the Moose Range, an overview of the various user groups, and goals and objectives. In the process of writing this document, I came to the conclusion that I had no answers about what most surely is a community-based dilemma. Rather, I determined that we as trail users are going to have to have answers. Representatives of the various user groups need to get together, note what the problems are, and look for ways of solving these problems. Hopefully, these individuals will draw upon the expertise of those who plan, design, and build multi-use trail systems. As I’m thinking, working collectively will reduce user conflicts on the trail. In this way, we might serve as a model for other communities in which this is problematic. We who live here have nothing to lose by giving this a shot.