South end trails on Near Island receive major improvements

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Crews and volunteers have added several improvements to the trails on the south end of Near Island. 

Travis Cooper is the executive director of Island Trails Network, which helps the city of Kodiak maintain hiking trails. One of their big projects this summer is to keep Near Island’s south-end trails usable.

Island Trails Network Executive Director Travis Cooper peruses trails to see which areas might need more of a touch up, August 2, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

“When we talk about trails, we’re looking at the tread surface, mainly,” he said. “When we say hardened, the gravel goes on, it gives you a little bit more durable of a surface that doesn’t erode as fast as just our soil/ash.” 

Cooper said that during the pandemic more people were hiking, including on the trails at Near Island.That means keeping a hard and consistent surface is more important than ever to keep people from wearing out forest floors. 

The nonprofit helps get gravel to sites to keep surfaces walkable, but they also keep an eye out for fallen trees and tripping hazards. 

The forests around Near Island are filled with brush like salmonberry bushes, August 2, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

“Vegetation as it grows can kind of start pushing trail users off of the durable surface here, the gravel that we put down – it was a lot of work to put the gravel down,” Cooper said. “It’s a sustainable principle – we really want people to stay on the gravel so we have to maintain the corridor to keep people on the gravel.” 

Marcus Dunbar is the crew leader for the project. He helps train volunteers to prep the ground and tells them where to lay out gravel. They spent last summer laying gravel and building boardwalks on the south end trails too. 

“This summer we were doing the south end point and the fence line trail and next summer we want to do the Dog Bay Trail that goes through the woods,” Dunbar said. 

Dunbar said when they finish work on Near Island, all of the trails will connect to one large loop about 4 miles long. 

The trails along Near Island have several openings to view Chiniak Bay and Woody Island nearby, August 2, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

But they’re not just putting in any kind of gravel, as trails edge closer to the water, the nonprofit has laid out fine rocks and shell fragments from nearby beaches. The goal is to make the transition feel natural from dense forests and meadows before approaching the water line. 

“That’s why using beach rock here is really cool because it really kind of blends in well with your environment,” said Cooper. 

The project to resurface trails around Near Island is ongoing, but they hope to finish adding gravel to the Fence Line trail by winter. To volunteer with Island Trails Network, Cooper said to watch for events on their Facebook page. 

 

Near Island is a popular place for locals to hike around and walk their pets, August 2, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Editor’s Note: a previous version of this article claimed Island Trails Network was hosting the block party on Sept. 9, but will actually be hosted by the Kodiak Community Foundation. 

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