The southern Kenai Peninsula celebrated National Trails Day June 5 with organized cleanup projects in Homer and across the Bay. With almost 40 eager volunteers, National Trails Day saw trails, campsites and ranger stations cleared for people to enjoy this summer.
National Trails Day serves as just the beginning of the clearing season in Alaska since more work will continue this summer as the brush grows after winter. Several groups worked in Kachemak Bay State Park at South Eldred Trail, Kayak Beach and, Grace Ridge Trail and Halibut Cove, while additional trail cleanup projects were held at Diamond Creek and Eveline trails.
“National Trails Day helps people remember how important trails are and that they don’t happen by themselves,” said Kathy Sarns, president of the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park. “For me, and for a lot of people around here or people visiting, trails in these beautiful areas are such good mental health places for getting back to nature. I like it because it’s an acknowledgement of trails and how important it is for people to get involved to make sure we keep our trails and keep them open and maintained so they don’t disappear.”
“Our job is to work with the state park to help them. Help them with trails, help them with any kind of support we can do for the park that they can’t do themselves or they need help with,” Sarns continued.
A group of six women tackled the work needing to be done at South Eldred trail, including cutting up fallen trees, reestablishing the trail tread, clearing overgrown plants and ensuring the trail markings were in sight and up to date. The group conquered half a mile of the trail and will continue to work in the area throughout the summer.
“This whole trail (South Eldred) would have been gone because the park didn’t have time for it, but the Friends were like, ‘We’ll do it! We have volunteers!’ And it’s totally hikeable,” Sarns said. “What we’re doing now is nice so we can keep maintaining it, couple of years it won’t grow in again. For me, making the trails better so they’re sustainable and makes sure they stay open.”
Lyn Maslow, a retired teacher, was one of the volunteers at South Eldred. “I love these trails, and they always need work,” she said. “I figured if I’m going to hike them, I better help maintain them.”
Kris Holderied, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Alaska Fairbanks Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, also volunteered for the South Eldred project.
“I think one of the things that is a real wonderful thing about Homer is that there are so many opportunities to be involved, and the Friends is one of them,” she said. “We love these trails, and we can help keep them in good shape. It’s really satisfying.”
At Halibut Cove Lagoon, four volunteers helped replace netting on the walkways, worked on the water system, refurbished and painted the railings along the waterway, and cleaned out the cabins of old furniture that needed to be replaced.
Another team of six helped clear brush and downed trees and widened the trail tread at Grace Ridge Trail and Kayak Beach.
The volunteers were provided free water taxi rides across the bay by Mako’s Water Taxi.
According to Sarns, the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park logged more then 2,300 hours of volunteer work last year. Through donations and volunteers, the Friends will hold cleanup projects every week this summer. Since the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park began volunteering at the park, the organization has helped clear more than 20 miles worth of trails. Sarns shared that seeing the trails they have helped clear over the years still in use is always exciting.
“One of our goals is to get people out there and encourage our volunteers to help and be involved in their local trails,” Sarns said.
Trail work will continue throughout the summer to clear the trails that have overgrowth. Volunteers can sign up to help with numerous needs on the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park Facebook page at www.facebook.com/friendsofkachemakbay.
For more information about the trails work, visit friendsofkachemakbay.org.