By Alicia King
For The Cordova Times
The Chugach National Forest is inviting local communities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail’s designation as a National Historic Trail and the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act.
Embracing a shared stewardship approach in providing and managing sustainable trails, the Chugach National Forest is inviting public participation and is coordinating with partners, tribes, communities and volunteers to share the stewardship of this unique and historic trail system.
The Iditarod National Historic Trail is comprised of 1,000 miles of trail between Seward and Nome, of which about 180 are managed by the Forest Service, and approximately 1,400 miles of side and connecting trails that link communities and historic sites. It is the only recognized winter trail in the National Trails System and stands as a symbol of frontier travel. From 1880 to 1920, the trail served as the main artery of Alaska’s winter commerce, providing access to a string of mining camps, trading posts, and other settlements during Alaska’s Gold Rush era.
The National Trails Act of 1968 was created to recognize trails affecting the conservation and restoration of natural beauty in America and in 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed legislation making the Iditarod Trail a Historic National Trail, with the purpose of acknowledging and protecting the historic route and its artifacts.
In 2004, the Forest Service signed a decision to establish a commemorative trail system on the southern trek of the Iditarod National Historic Trail. The trail parallels the historic route between Seward and Girdwood, connecting a series of existing trail with new trail segments forming nearly 180 miles of continuous trail. The trail will connect the communities of Seward, Moose Pass and Girdwood and provide world-class summer and winter recreation opportunities celebrating the rich history of these areas.
The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016 directed the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a strategy to increase the role of volunteers and partners in National Forest System trail maintenance in selected Priority Areas. This year the Secretary of Agriculture chose the southern trek of the Iditarod National Historic Trail as a Priority Area, one of only fifteen across the nation.
Working with valued partners – Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance; Seward Iditarod Trail Blazers; Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area; Alaska Trails; National Park Service; Chugach State Park; Bureau of Land Management; the Girdwood Trails Committee; and Alaska Geographic. The Chugach National Forest is planning volunteer stewardship events and activities throughout the summer of 2018.
June 3: National Trails Day event celebrating the Iditarod National Historic Trail at the Branson Pavilion in Seward hosted by Seward Iditarod Trailblazers and Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance.
June 9: Build a new segment of Iditarod National Historic Trail from Victor Creek to Rocky Creek in Moose Pass on the Chugach National Forest.
July 14: Maintain the Upper Winner Creek Trail near Girdwood with brushing, drainage, and tread work on the Chugach National Forest.
August 25: Maintain the popular Crow Pass Trail near Girdwood with brushing and tread work on the Chugach National Forest.
For more information about the Iditarod National Historic Trail and upcoming events visit the Chugach National Forest website.
Alicia King is the public affairs/partnership staff officer for Chugach National Forest.