People who use the Matanuska Greenbelt trails in Palmer will notice changes to the system near the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Matanuska Experiment Farm.

Last fall, staff closed the trails that went through the farm itself.

Director Jodie Anderson said with all the farming equipment in the area, it wasn’t safe for the general public.

“The perception is, 'Oh, this is a farm and the kids can run around wherever,' and that’s not really what this farm is about,” Anderson explained. “This is a research station, a working farm and we’re happy to bring people back but in a very controlled setting.”

Anderson said there were also problems with vandalism and theft.

Some people used to park at the main building then follow the farm roads back to access the trail system. Anderson said the closure is a change not everyone’s happy with.

“We’ve had a lot of complaints. People assume that because the trailhead at the core is closed, that all of the trail access is closed and that’s not true,” she said.

Instead, the farm built a brand-new, free parking lot just up the road with the Kin-Win Trailhead that provides a more direct route to the system that connects to trails owned by the Mat-Su Borough, Alaska State Parks and the University of Alaska Anchorage's Matanuska-Susitna College.

“There’s up to 33 miles of trails and we did not want to be the landowner that blocks off that access,” Anderson said.

Hay, harvested by staff from the surrounding fields every summer, is sold to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to feed its wood bison.

Anderson said that feed, however, can be polluted by dog toys and balls that get left behind by trail users. She said it’s essential that visitors follow the laws and keep their dogs on-leash.

“We are actually, technically private property and so just because it’s here and you can walk on our roads, it’s kind of a privilege and we’d like people to treat it that way,” Anderson said.

The farm offers free tours the last Wednesday of every month. The next will be April 24 at 4:30 p.m.

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