Teenagers in the Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) program are working to prevent erosion at the Kincaid Park bluffs near the motocross tracks.

Thousands of people flocked to that area last summer when a dead humpback whale washed up on the mudflats. With no clear route from the Jodhpur Motocross track down the hill, many made make-shift trails to get there.

“People’s feet basically act like bulldozers and push all that sand down,” explained Alaska Department of Fish and Game Refuge manager Joe Meehan. “The trail gets deeper and deeper and deeper and when it gets too deep people start making a new trail.”

YEP puts teenagers to work in different parks and trail systems around Anchorage for the summer. It’s the first job for many.

“My favorite part is being outside,” said 18-year-old Hannah Elam. “It’s better than most teenager jobs you would have because they’re inside and working with food or clothes. Out here we’re actually doing real work that helps our community and helps people who live in this community.”

The Kincaid bluff trail is one of several improvement projects they’ll work on over the next ten weeks. In addition to covering up old trails, the crews will also install a rope barrier to deter people from cutting through.

“This is all beach sand so it erodes away really fast and easily so it’s unsustainable,” said YEP crew leader Jessica Winn. “We’re planning to plant trees on the upside and the downside to block this trail, allow it to regrow and funnel people in a more sustainable trail.”

That area of Kincaid was a dumping ground for hundreds of cars in the 1960s and 1970s. Meehan said making one clear path down will protect the remaining vehicles.

“Our concern is all the erosion is going to expose more of the bluff, open it up to the cars that are buried underneath and it’s all going to slide down into the marsh and the wildlife refuge below,” he said.

Other YEP projects include installing a new rain garden at Valley of the Moon park and making a new, nine-hole disc golf course at Davis Park in Mountain View.