“Could the lure of trails salvage Alaska’s economy?”
article by Krista Langlois in High Country News (June 26,2017):
Summary below with link to full article
This article is highly recommended to anyone interested in huts and trails and their potential for economic development. Following is a brief summary:
The subtitle of this piece summarizes Langlois’ arena of exploration: A trial along the Trans-Alaska pipeline could be the start of a booming recreation economy. Krista interviews people on all sides of this question, but is clearly interested in the potential of Alaska’s greatest asset — its sublime landscape and huge tracts of magnificent wilderness — as a desperately needed driver of economic development.
The economy of Alaska is on the ropes: timber jobs have decreased by 80%, oils production has dropped by 76% since 1989, the state is doing everything it can to prop up fishing and mining, but is now facing a $4 billion budget deficit. Governor Bill Walker said in 2016 “We have reached a point in our state’s history that we need to be looking beyond oil.”
The specific proposal Langlois explores is the development of an 800 mile trail that parallels the Trans-Pacific pipeline. She outlines the arguments pro and con, provides interesting character sketches some of the advocates and opponents of the trail, and provides valuable context in comparing the state of trail development in Alaska compared with that in the lower 48 states. The bottom line is that while Alaska has unsurpassed wilderness beauty, it has relatively little infrastructure to attract outdoor enthusiasts.
She hones in on the fact that the rugged wilderness of Alaska is beyond the capabilities of most people, and that the development of hut systems is one way of making these wonders accessible to the vast majority of “people in the middle” who appreciate and long for contact with wild but are simply not up to the job of backpacking in Alaska. She interviews Tom Callahan of Alaska Huts Association, and cites relevant economic development studies and initiatives including the New Zealand hut system and Great Walks, the AMC Hut System, and Adventure Cycling, and Fruita Colorado to name a few.
But don’t settle for my summary: its well worth reading the entire article.