Governor Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes to the state budget last week included a cut of about $10.5 million in funding for the Alaska Long Trail project.
The project would span approximately 500 miles and connect Seward to Fairbanks via what is called a braided trail, mixing a series of passable trails as well as trails accessible by four-wheelers and snowmobiles. Some parts of the trail already exist, but some still need to be built.
Mariyam Medovaya works with Alaska Trails, a nonprofit trail-building group that has run the project for over a year. She said her group presented a proposal to the Legislative Assembly for $14 million that would fund 15 projects along the main route of the trail.
Seven of those projects, totaling about $4 million, survived governor vetoes, she said. The funds will go to several land managers in Anchorage.
“They will include many trail improvements, trail construction, planning funds for connections between Anchorage and the Mat-Su,” Medovaya said.
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The projects that were vetoed were outside of Anchorage and included sections of the trail in the boroughs of Mat-Su, Denali and Fairbanks North Star.
In a statement, Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner said the governor believes many Alaskans have little information about the project.
“The governor has decided to veto a portion of the funding so discussions can take place this year about the trail’s potential impacts and benefits to Alaska’s tourism industry,” Turner wrote.
Medovaya said she understands the governor’s hesitation and reasoning for the cuts. She said she remains optimistic as nearly half of the Alaska Long Trail projects remain on budget.
“And we’re already seeing a lot of support and momentum from many bipartisan entities and agencies across the state,” Medovaya said. “But, having said that, a lot of people don’t know that and there’s still a lot of hesitation and some worries and fears of losing access.”
Medovaya said Alaska Trails looks forward to working with the state to get the remaining projects funded in the next budget.
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