Kodiak hikers are rediscovering local trails now that the weather is nice, and the ongoing walkability of those paths is largely due to their caretakers. In some spots, the park service or the Kodiak Island Borough are responsible, but in other areas, the nonprofit Island Trails Network is the driving force keeping the trails up to par.
Executive Director Andy Shroeder says the organization tries to make existing trails better.
“In the back country that’s ensuring and securing access and making what we have able be there forever and, in the front country, that’s sort of doing the same thing. In the front country, trails are more threatened by development. We believe that trails and development can coexist and actually sort of live in harmony.”
He says there are many cases where companies incorporate trails into their development plans.
ITN works with land owners – for instance, out in the back country.
Shroeder says they’re currently trying to secure public access on the Saltery Cove trail, which he says is vulnerable.
“We can’t make improvements to it because it [has] basically been determined to be undesignated state land, and the state hasn’t formally recognized the uses of that trail and importance of the trail, even though the borough has, so we’re working with the borough to apply for a recreational easement for the Saltery Cove road.”
He says the borough will carry out a survey for the easement this summer and ITN hopes to have the easement fully approved and in place this fall. Then, they can start applying for trail improvement funding.
ITN is also trying to identify the easements that give people access through Native-owned lands into public lands. Shroeder says it’s often unclear where those pathways are.
“You can’t make an investment in something if you’re not sure it’s in the right place. And so we’re urging the Bureau of Land Management who administers those easements to recognize that and to take steps first to figure out if they are indeed where the maps say they are. If they’re not, let’s move them to where they need to be. And then let’s mark them.”
Shroeder says that will allow the public to find and use trails that may currently be hidden all over the road system.
He says ITN is doing a lot of work on access issues right now, but for the first ten or so years, ITN had been focusing on hardening backcountry trails. He says that involves toughening up the ground of the trails in order to sustain use.