To many, Anchorage’s expansive trail system is one of the city’s best attributes. But recent homicides and other crimes have tarnished its reputation, leading some to steer clear of the trails altogether. Now, one group is trying to make the paths safer by including smaller “social” trails in the larger system.

“The more people that use these trails, the less criminal activity you see overall,” said Christina Grande, who is leading the effort to expand the trail network.

Grande wants the Municipality of Anchorage to invest in signage and maintenance for the dirt paths along the stretch of the Chester Creek Trail between C Street and the Seward Highway.

“All you have to do is clean, maybe lop a couple of the little twigs, but nothing like taking down a tree,” Grande said.

[RELATED: Anchorage Trail Watch program provides tips on staying safe]

For the last several months, she has been working on gaining support from the five community councils along the Chester Creek Trail. She recently got official support from the council in Fairview. Some have raised concerns about the trails becoming noisier and the project being costly. However, Anchorage Parks Superintendent Josh Durand said with the people’s support, the project can be done for relatively cheap.

“If you went straight to a contractor and solicited them to construct this, that might be a little bit expensive,” Durand explained. “If you took a different approach utilizing Youth Employment in Parks [and] volunteer groups, it could be realized for much less money.”

Homeless camps dot certain sections of the social trails. Grande said incorporating the trails into the system would work well with the mayor’s effort to move more homeless people into permanent housing.

“It’s more than just laying down a trail,” Grande added. “It’s really addressing a bigger picture in Anchorage.”

Moreover, she said the system would encourage low-income residents to take advantage of nearby trails because they would not have to drive as far to do things like mountain bike.

“More people exposed to their own backyard is always a good thing,” she said.

If the community supports the project, Grande hopes work can begin next spring or summer. However, Durand said a 2018 start date is likely more realistic.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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