This website is maintained by Friends of Bicentennial Park to provide information on Anchorage's Far North Bicentennial Park.
The project discussed here was completed in 2004. There was shock and outrage by moutain bikers, runners, hikers and others who did not see this coming. One result was the organization of a group called Singletrack Advocates. This group is dedicated to maintaining narrow and minimally disturbed trails for the many people who prefer those.
The picture above shows what a member of the
NSAA trails committee
described as a section of trail optimal for good for winter skiing.
No really, that's a trail, not a road!
What are the Ski Club's plans?
On May 28, 2003 the NSAA held a public meeting at the Hilltop Ski Area Chalet. Before the meeting, NSAA Trail Committee members took people on a tour of the trails to show in more detail what the plans involved. This was a sunny evening that begged for people to do anything but attend a meeting. Despite that, about 60 people with numerous viewpoints attended the meeting. Several members of the Parks and Recreation Commission attended.
The plan presented at this meeting was modified from the original plan. Primarily, plans for the Richter and Ridge Loop were changed to keep the trails narrow and classic skiing only. There was also greater attention given to decreasing damage to the areas adjacent to the main trails that would be widened.
The plans presented and ultimately approved, will dismay people who would like to see a more natural park with narrower trails. The NSAA Trail Committee should be credited with making some changes in response to input from the big community of year round trail users.
It was also encouraging to hear John McCleary from the Anchorage Parks & Recreation Division start the meeting by explaining that the trails belong to all of us no matter how much any one group has contributed to them over the years.
The following paragraphs describe the original proposal by the NSAA Trail Committee.
In general, the proposal is to widen the trails at Hillside (the trails off Abbott Rd) by 6. The main trails are 12-14 and would be widened to 20. There are numerous elements that would make some tricky turns and downhills easier or avoidable. There are a few tweaks that look like theyll improve traffic flow. Overall though, the underlying premise appears to be major widening of the trails to international race standards for the comfort and enjoyment of elite ski racers and groomers.
This widening would include increasing the BLM Ridge Loop and Richter Loop Trails to up to 12 which the NSAA Trails Group described as an "intimate feel." These are currently classic only trails with enough room for two skiers side-by-side. These would be widened to allow for separate skate skiing as well.
A number of small trails that cut through the current main loops would be widened as well. These include Anns Alley, Coaches Cutoff, Jans Junction and the trail over the top of the hill at the Abbott Rd parking lot.
We only have the NSAA plans in .pdf format. Click here to view their report. The image shown above is part of that document. If you click on the image, it should link to a larger version.
This is the Report from the Planning Department to the Parks & Recreation Commission
|MUNICIPALITY OF ANCHORAGE
PRC # 03-017
DATE: May 8, 2003
As described, many of the proposed improvements would address skier conflicts at trail intersections, as well as other specific trail segments, by widening and increasing sight distance. Other improvements include rehabilitation of trail surface with new material as needed, blended with existing base material.
Following is more specific information about the proposed work plan submitted by NSAA. The information includes a description of "ski trail classifications" and corresponding proposed trail improvement standards.
Parks and Recreation staff generally concurs with the need for improvements as described. To an extent the improvements would assist with park and trail maintenance efforts to allow continued enjoyment of the trail system. It is noted that some proposed work, such as on the Spencer Loop, may be affected by other permitted activities in the park, such as operation/proposed expansion of the Hilltop Ski Area.
1. Concept approval is for work proposed in the 2003 construction season.
2. Application for final approval shall include information to describe as accurately as possible the areas/intersections to be widened including the amount of clearing and grading proposed.
3. Any work involving relocating or installation of lighting fixtures, supports, and electrical service, shall be subject to specific review by Parks and Recreation staff, shall be designed to minimize "light pollution," and shall conform to applicable MOA specifications.
4. The volunteers shall obtain any other required permits prior to beginning construction, and shall coordinate work as necessary with the Anchorage School District, MOA Parks and Recreation, Hilltop Ski Area and other permittees/leaseholders, and MOA Street Maintenance.
5. The volunteers shall provide a certificate of insurance and other applicable documents as required or requested by the MOA.
6. Prior to commencing work the volunteer project leader(s) shall meet jointly with interested parties to review and approve final project scope, timelines, permit conditions, and other items as necessary.
7. The volunteers shall advise staff throughout project of project status and of any proposed changes to project.
8. The volunteers shall restore disturbed areas to a condition equal to or better than the condition of the area prior to construction.
9. The volunteers shall provide a final report to Parks and Recreation regarding the project, including copies of plans, permits, and related documentation.
Cc: Gordon Wetzel, NSAA
Parks and Recreation Commission
Meetings relating to the Trails
Users of Hillside and Far North Bicentennial Park may be interested in two items that will receive action tonight, May 8. At 6, the Park and Recreation Commission will meet at Russian Jack Springs Chalet. Unfortunately they dont have a web-site informing the public of their agenda.
Hillside Ski Area will be asking for an extension on the time granted them to expand their ski area into the Spencer Cross-country loop.
The Nordic Ski Club will be requesting concept approval for a trail rehab project. This will involve widening junctions for safety concerns, and adding up to 6 to the width of trails. The current diagonal-ski only Richter and Ridge loops, will essentially double in width.
My concern is that this area is not just a winter ski area. Nordic has converted what were intimate single tracks, many established by equestrians and walkers, into roads. It is now a wonderful winter cross-country ski area, but the trails are used year around by people who like dirt trails and a natural setting. Widening these two loops in particular will greatly change their character. I believe that some of our trails should be left to look like trails and not roads.
We need a park plan that considers all users before more major changes are made to the park character.
Pixie Siebe 346-3329 8700 Solar Drive Anchorage, AK 99507 Friends of Bicentennial Park
The "improved safety" aspect is persistently used as the justification for the project. The work is extensive for a problem that seems to be remote. There are large and sufficient areas at Abbott Rd, Hilltops parking and Service High for putting on skis and getting on the trails. The intersections are currently wide and offer lots of visibility for skiers. The occasional congestion could be handled with a few "pull-out" areas for ski racers in training.
The most pronounced and frequently heard complaints are not the width of the trails but conflicts with other users. Runners, bikers and horse riders use the "ski only" trails with increasing frequency. Justification for this is that the park is for everyone, there are no lights on the multiple use trails and that there are no other places for these people to go. None of these more serious and increasing problems are addressed in the "improvements" proposed here.
FNBP was set aside for primarily wild and natural uses. This plan develops the main trails for a single purpose, single season use. The width of the trails is not necessary or desirable for non-snow season use. The width is not even desirable for many who want to ski a narrow trail through a moonlit woods. In fact, with the widening of the Richter and BLM Ridge Loops, we will loose the few kilometers that provide that opportunity.
We just went through 3 years of battling over ballfields where 25 acres will be cleared. This trail plan will clear at least 11 acres. This plan is going before the Parks and Recreation Commission with 3 days notice! This kind of development is taken seriously by Park users and should be given a lot more exposure.
The plan has good elements but the broader trail using community would likely consider this too extensive. This plan is better addressed in a more public forum than the NSAA board room. The Park Plan Update process could look at this proposal. That plan could look at the development of Kincaid as the center of elite ski racing and Hillside could offer trails for more general use.
Help us get the word out!
A letter to the editor can inform lots of people. Write one! They prefer 250 words or less.
The Anchorage Daily News at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Eagle River Star email@example.com
To read some letters on this issue that have been published, click here.
Anchorage Municipal Assembly Members. For email addresses go to our Contacts page.
Send email to everyone you know and ask them to look at this site.
Sources for more info
Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage