Juneau community members came together to fix trails on National Trails Day

Trail Mix, Inc. staff member Laib Allensworth and volunteers Dave Haas and Dan Parks working on Lemon Creek Trail. June 4 2022. (Photo by Yvonne Krumrey/KTOO)

Last weekend, on National Trails Day, a Juneau trail maintenance nonprofit gave residents a chance to give back to the trails that helped keep them connected to nature during the pandemic.

At the Lemon Creek Trailhead, about 30 volunteers picked up shovels, saws, mattocks and pulaskis and headed out. Smaller groups formed at problem spots, like where a rotting tree stump took over half a trail or a downed log forced hikers to climb over it.

Trail Mix, Inc. executive director Ryan O’Shaughnessy says days like these are an opportunity for trail users to see what goes into maintaining Juneau’s outdoor spaces — and to give back. 

“I just think that our trails are an invaluable community resource, and it’s really, really cool to see people coming together and appreciating them and improving them and contributing to our community,” he said.

June 4 was Trail Mix’s first open call volunteer day in nearly three years. On open call days, volunteers — no experience required — work on smaller maintenance projects that don’t need a full trail crew.

While a trail crew might take on big jobs like uncovering sections buried by landslides, volunteer days address smaller problems — like water flowing across a trail or downed trees blocking the way.

Dan Parks of Southeast Alaska Independent Living, who leads the Outdoor Recreation Community Access program, hadn’t volunteered with Trail Mix before. But he’s spent a lot of time on Juneau’s trails, and he says he appreciates the work Trail Mix’s crew does.

“You can visibly see, just by hiking the trail, whether or not they’ve been there,” Parks said. He says he hopes Saturday would be the “first of many” days volunteering with Trail Mix. 

Mark Pusich, Trail Mix’s board president, says trail use went up during the pandemic. There haven’t been open call volunteer days since the summer of 2019, but he says people have shown appreciation through financial support — the number of regular donors has risen from about 450 before the pandemic to nearly 800 today. 

And Saturday’s larger-than-normal turnout was also a good sign of the community’s desire to get involved.

After four hours, the group of 30 had cleared a boulder and a tree stump and rerouted water in three places. About a mile down the Lemon Creek Trail, a few downed trees were still lying across the path. There’s still a lot of work to be done. 

While Trail Mix doesn’t have another open call day planned right now, there are other opportunities for people to help care for Juneau’s trails. One is a new initiative called Trail Stewards, where volunteers can sign up in a group of five or more to “adopt a trail” and work on it once or twice a month.

Yvonne Krumrey

Local News Reporter, KTOO

Juneau is built on hidden and assumed layers of power and access, influencing how we interact with identity, with the law and with each other. I bring you stories of the gaps in access to power, and those who are working to close those gaps.

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