Winter Trails Day celebrates greater Mat-Su parks access
With more than 2,000 miles of trail, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is becoming more of a year-round destination for outdoor activities.
"Mostly what I do in the winter time is come out here and fat-tire bike,” said Julie Berberich, who lives in Palmer.
For Winter Trails Day on Saturday, the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation celebrated its improvements to the Parkway Trail at the Nancy Lake Recreation Area.
"Over the years it had become overgrown, it needed to be rerouted,” explained Stuart Leidner, the group’s executive director. "So we helped fund widening the trails to make them usable year-round as well, so it’s not just a winter trail.”
Over the past five years the organization has spent more than $550,000 to help fund 40 different projects. It gave a $10,000 grant to the new downhill ski area in Hatcher Pass, which was named Skeetawk on Saturday -- a Dena'ina word selected from a naming contest that prompted hundreds of entries.
The group has also worked with the Mat-Su Ski Club to expand the network of trails at the Government Peak Recreation Area.
"We work on a broad range of projects throughout the borough,” Leidner said. "We want to see what the user groups are interested in getting put together, and then we’ll work with them on funding if it fits into our program.”
About a dozen people turned out for Winter Trails Day where Alaska State Parks was giving a sneak peek of its newest facility.
The Rhein Lake Public Use Cabin is the 14th in the Nancy Lake area, and the first ever built specifically for wheelchair access.
“There are higher bunks on the bottom to be able to transition to a sleeping bunk,” ranger Damon Hempel pointed out. The table is also higher to accommodate a wheelchair and there will be a ramp to the deck that looks out over Rhein Lake.
In the winter the cabin is about a four-mile snowmachine ride up Nancy Lake Parkway from where the plows stop near Mile 2.2; in the summer people will be able to drive right up to it.
State park staff are also working with the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation to improve the trails around the cabin too.
"We want to maximize the recreational opportunities. For people who have mobility issues or are handicapped they don’t necessarily have the same opportunity to access the park resources,” Hempel said.
"Our goal is to have an integrated network so you can go from one end of the borough to the other on trails,” Leidner said.
The Rhein Lake Cabin will likely be available for reservations beginning at the end of February.
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