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Hatcher Pass Road going in for Nordic ski and rec area

PHOTO: Dan Joling/Courtesy of Mat-Su Borough

Written by Patty Sullivan   
Tuesday, 21 February 2012 23:16

MAT-SU— Work begins in a few weeks on a road that leads to a long-anticipated Nordic Ski and recreation area at Hatcher Pass. Tonight (Feb. 21), the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly unanimously approved the contract for building a parking lot and an access road (Ullr’s Trail) to trails in the Government Peak Management Area.

“For what has been a long-envisioned, premier recreation area at Hatcher Pass, we now have tangible accomplishments that we can build on,” said Assemblymember Jim Colver, after the meeting. “This access road, parking lot, and 10 km of trails will boost our economy and expand opportunities at Hatcher Pass,” Colver said.

Visitors each year in the Mat-Su are estimated to spend $101 million. The recreation area will drive up such spending. The ski area will draw hundreds of skiers competing in regional and state high school competitions as well as their families and booster clubs who will shop at local businesses. Designed by an Olympian, the trails will ultimately attract international competitions and the hundreds of team supporters who attend such events.

The project received a Record of Decision in 2011 approving an environmental impact statement in 2010, and is mostly funded by federal dollars. Some $3.3 million in federal funding will build the mountain road suitable for transit buses to access. The Assembly vote added funding for a parking lot and construction contingency funds at an amount up to $218,465. The supplemental funding will come from interest earnings from the Borough’s Land Management Permanent Fund. 

Assistant Borough Manager Don Moore briefed the Assembly on how the interest earnings from the Land Management Fund can be spent. “It is quintessentially the idea of what the Land Management Fund interest earnings would be used for, …to complete a Borough (trail) project, to complete a Borough road, or any Borough-owned capital asset. Any residual funds go back into the Land Management Fund,” Moore said.  

When built, the Ullr’s Trail will run north a mile off of Edgerton Parks Road to a parking lot and trailhead.

In addition to the road and parking area project, this summer, construction begins on 10 km of Nordic ski trails as the first part of a multi-phase project. Last summer, the Mat-Su Ski Club and other volunteers cleared brush and trees on the future Nordic trails. Designed by Olympian Bill Spencer, the trails will have long and short loops and will offer a place to ski for the novice and the competitor. Nordic skiers could be on the trails by November 2012.  In future summers, hikers and mountain bikers are expected to use the trails.

In March, a draft development and asset management plan for the area will be released for public comment. Called the Government Peak Unit: Development and Asset Management Plan, the document will provide the foundation for decisions on how the 8,060-acre Government Peak Recreation Area at Hatcher Pass will be developed and managed, including possible phased development for residential and limited commercial developments. Some of the proposed recreation includes Nordic and alpine skiing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and general hiking. The Alpine or downhill ski area project presently has no funding. Motorized recreation is not allowed in the Government Peak unit. Other projects in the Hatcher Pass area are underway for motorized access.

A new Borough website http://www.hatcherpass.com gives details on the current and future projects, maps, and what to do in the Government Peak Recreation Area.

 

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