Tony Knowles (Courtesy photo)

Tony Knowles (Courtesy photo)

Alaska Voices: ‘Show me the money!’

A long list of federal programs and grants could immediately fund the first phases of this trail.

  • Tuesday, August 25, 2020 9:16pm
  • Opinion

A couple of weeks ago I shared news about the Alaska Long Trail (ALT) — a 500-mile trail between Seward and Fairbanks. I noted that there are “numerous prospects” for trails funding. Many people have said, using the classic movie line, “show me the money.” Good point.

A long list of federal programs and grants could immediately fund the shovel-ready first phases of this trail. Some specifics are below, and it’s easy to get lost in the details. So, let me be clear right at the beginning — the money is available now.

There is a basket of federal outdoor recreation programs offering funds of some $22 million to Alaska yearly. Let’s make The Alaskan Long Trail a part of those federal funds. These include the Federal Highway Administration’s programs called: Federal Lands Access, Recreational Trails, and Transportation Alternatives, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Pittman Robertson program. The ALT will immediately provide jobs in the short-run and more tourism and jobs in the long-run.

The largest egg in the basket could come from the recently adopted federal Great American Outdoors Act. This act permanently secures increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million per year to support natural areas and recreational activities. Alaska’s share should be at least $3 million dollar per year.

For many decades the LWCF has funded state and local recreational needs yearly during lean times and times of plenty. It does require a 50% match from the state or local government. However, it is inexplicable that Alaska is the only state in the Union to not accept these federal funds for the last three years!

The most important first step for the ALT is demonstrating the broad public support necessary for political leaders to take action. Visit https://www.alaska-trails.org/the-alaska-long-trail to find out more about the proposed trail and funding opportunities, see a draft route map and video and learn the next public steps to be taken. Join the team and make it happen!

Tony Knowles served as Anchorage mayor from 1981-1987, Alaska governor from 1994-2002 and as chair of the National Parks Advisory Board from 2009 -2016.

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