Alex Gimarc: The Long Trail is like raw onion on a hamburger — it keeps coming back up

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By ALEX GIMARC

The Long Trail is a decades long dream of hikers, cyclists, and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts. The project envisions a 500-mile-long, multi-strand, set of trails and paths connecting Fairbanks and Seward. 

Like all grandiose projects, this one has had a bumpy path, most recently being slapped down under the Gov. Frank Murkowski Administration in 2006.  

Like raw onions on a hamburger, however, it keeps coming back up, over the last two years getting capital budget approvals for connected projects (trail improvements); $4.7 million in 2022 and $1.4 million this year.  

The technique by proponents is to request small improvement projects along its projected footprint. This year, the legislature approved trail and access improvements at Eklutna Lakeside Trail, Ram Valley, and Indian Valley. Sen. Bill Wielechowski was quite proud of this in his June, 2023 “Capitol Brief.”

Proponents claim that the proposed trail system is easy to do because it will lie entirely on public lands. 

If you look at the public lands between Fairbanks and Seward, there are two obvious choices: Easements along the Alaska Railroad (AKRR) or the Seward Highway. It is the use of these easements that becomes the crux of the opposition, as an easement does not imply or guarantee ownership or the ability to build a trail on it. Easements to widen the Seward Highway will have to be purchased or stolen via condemnation or eminent domain from property owners. Easements along the railroad are something else entirely, as their use for anything other than railroad use is illegal.  

For example, AKRR has been at war with its neighbors over use of the railroad easement for decades. In this, AKRR has been the aggressor, and bad actor (according to its neighbors), using an unlimited legal budget and the courts to single out a property owner or two, destroy that owner in court, set a legal precedent later used to force that solution on everyone else with an easement on their property. 

I wrote an extended series in Alaska Politics and Elections Online on this in 2021.  

For some reason, AKRR has been very, very quiet about the Long Trail, leading property owners to worry that the fix is in.  The fix in this case, allow Long Trail recreational access to the AKRR easement.

Should they do that, there will be a problem, as there is a Ninth Circuit opinion in Toews v US 03-5129, July 21, 2004, that holds that the scope of a railroad easement does not encompass its use as a recreational trail. The opinion has not been appealed or reversed.

It was this opinion, among other things that led the Federal Highway Administration to issue a Record of Decision on March 30, 2006, rejecting an attempt by the Municipality and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facility to extend the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail from Kincaid Park to Potter Marsh. That Record of Decision has not been reversed, though there is no telling what the Biden administration would choose to do.  

So, this project is percolating right along, garnering support from the usual suspects on the political left, including the Senate majority. 

Expect them to continue to do piecemeal trail improvements along its proposed length. 

Expect them to attempt to strong arm property owners along the Seward Highway or the railroad into agreement / support. Once the railroad capitulates, and it is my opinion that they are already onboard, expect more money to be spent in court than on the trail itself.  

And it is all so, so unnecessary. If the Legislature wants to support infrastructure, I have some roads and bridges we need to discuss.  

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.

45 COMMENTS

  1. Alaska’s highway system is heavily subsidized with Federal $$’s, about 7 to 1. If AG ever got off his behind and out of the office, he would understand the Crow Creek Trail bypasses Anchorage and the trail subsidies would have a great return on investment. The Long Trail could have sidetrails to Anchorage. The long trail would be carbon free tourism and support small business, much preferable to Cruise Ships 5 times the size of the Titantic

    • “Carbon free tourism”

      I love your kneejerk use of inane radical leftist talking points, Frank.
      But you forgot to mention “diversity” and “inclusion”.
      How utterly anti-non-cis-heteronormative and eurocentric patriarchical white supremacist of you!

  2. Wow, I had never heard or read of this grandiose “Long Trail” proposal before.
    It appears untenable and impractical on the face of it.

    And as an aside, only barbarians eat raw onions on hamburgers.
    As do those crazy Australians with their utterly disgusting beet slices on burgers.

    • Jefferson try your burger with Vegemite …that’s the real Aussie way.
      But, you probably prefer some type of black bean burger or textured vegetable protein instead.
      I always considered your comments as rhetoric prose…but perhaps you showed your flamboyant colors here.

      • Ah, Vegemite (and its twin borther, Marmite), the bastard offspring of used motor oil, charred toaster crumbs, and road salt.
        No thanks, I’ll pass.

        And just for the record, I enjoy both black bean burgers and the real, 100% beef kind. I stay away from the textured vegetable (soy) protein, though.

    • If eating raw onions on a burger make one a barbarian, then call me one of Genghis’s Golden Horde and pass the ketchup!

  3. The DOT is very good at stealing land from homeowners for their projects, often claiming an easement that does not apply. And if you don’t cave, they will make your life miserable. Consult a good attorney when a project is proposed affecting your property. Keep in mind that land homesteaded before statehood often is not affected by easements not specifically granted by the owner. With compensation. Even title companies will list a false easement rather than challenging it. They once ordered me to tear down my family house to make way for a bike path, claiming a 150 foot easement that was in fact invalid. They could have cared less about my loss. They ate crow.

    • There is no “good” attorney if they have given an oath of loyalty to the British Accredited Registry. Does the state of AK “license” lawyers in AK? No. Does AK license railroads? No. The ARRC license is a federal license denying anything but a permeable public right of way on rail road beds and I believe any of their legal consultants likely know this. ARTA transmitted “the interests and authorities of the Alaska railroad” to the state of Alaska. It did not convey added property rights the federal estate were never legally in custody of nor formerly undelivered rights of free American men. The Congress was never delegated authority to take one living man’s legal property ownership to “give” to another fake “corps” non-living man fiction. That would be an illegal, tyrannical move. All rail roads licensed to act as rail roads in the US are under license since the federal licensing act in 1789 included the subsequent federal license in Alaska to operate a rail road in the Alaska territories which was not exempt from but enacted by the the only jurisdiction to operate a rail road in America and territories as a result of the break up of the Rockerfeller monopolies. This broke the Rockerfellers hard hearts but they acquisced per Congressional smashing of fee simple rail road monopoly gimmics because they are so hard in their operation of monopolies of the rights of natural American residents. NO ONE WOULD BE ELECTABLE ANYWHERE IN THE US OTHERWISE. That is why the monopoly smash up and creation of the US Licensing Act of 1781″ which remains the law of American land currently. ALASKA. Are you an obedient state in willing compliance with the US Constitution? If yes you did not get private fee simple land under the rail roads permitted to operate in AK. NO? Then you are engaged in an illegal group activity against the US Constitution. Take your side. Of course phonying up understandings and public mis understandings are agencies, lawyers, stock and trade. However Alaska, be in full Assembly mode right now.

  4. Another waste of money is all this is. How many people will actually hike the 500 miles, a few hundred a year most likely.

    • None. Gimarc needs to pull on the big girl panties and stumble the iditarod trail. Once he’s done that he can stop pretending that anyone wants this 500 miles of cash squandering idiocy. Then rub his eyes w/ that raw onion while promising to say fewer stupid things in the future.

    • The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Arizona Trail, etc. are all very popular trails. About 2 million people hike some part of the Appalachian Trail each year. About 2 thousand of them hike the total length (2200 miles) in a single year. Multiple ready access points, shuttle service options, and convenience / logistics of resupply affect long distance trail usage. For a trail like this in Alaska, there would be a bit of an “If you build it, they will come” aspect to it. On the other hand, Alaska’s remoteness from the lower 48, the remoteness of the trail within the state, and the short summer season would limit these positive features. There might be a couple of hundred annual full length completions. There would be thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of day hikes, or weekend hikes, or section hikes. Usage would be there, perhaps not nearly enough to justify the cost.

  5. We need a lawsuit to shut it down. The environment will suffer and the wild animals will lose their land. No new development on these lands. They have existing park and fed lands to walk on already.

  6. This is difficult to look up because a learned, earnest effort to rewrite anti trust Congressional enactments has been obfuscated. The foundational law of the US is the 1776 US Constitution as plainly written using careful diction. To suspend any part of the US Constitution suspends “government”. We have American Common Law. Does the Judiciary have subject matter jurisdiction over rail road operation? The 1776 US Constitution uses “shall” language. MAN DA TORY. THE US Constitution stands on a higher level than stare decisis practice.

  7. The US Constitution does not create an aristocracy of those who want Americans to have no liberties to destroy a (middle) class. How would the Rockerfeller class try to “fix” the broken monopoly by railroads? Oh, bad stare decisis writings. You cannot delegat power you do not have. ? do not have more power than the people. Logic and reason anyone? The Law of Nations and our founding and desirable documents diction is “people” not corps. For a legal reason. Stipulate that.
    The Law of Nations International Law of Nations and our US Constitution says A “CITIZEN” is bound to perform certain duties. CH.19 sec 212. …all executive, judicial, legislative and appointed are bound to defend the US Constitution. (oaths written and in file). You would think our founding document writers (The Lees) knew the proper diction. They did.

  8. Lisa’s paybacks because shouldn’t US Senators thwart the people they represent? ISN’T that her “game”? LOL.

  9. WOW … This would make for a great Snowmachine Poker Run event in February or March! Something similar to the Tok-to-Dawson but longer.

    • The supporters claim it will be a multi-use trail, including motorized vehicles (snow machines and ATVs depending on the time of year. My guess is that will happen for the first 15 minutes or so before the hikers and bikers get themselves up in arms and promptly shut motorized traffic on the trail down. Cheers –

      • Agimarc, there is essentially no such thing as a “multi-use trail”. In reality, and by necessity, they all revert to either all foot-traffic, or all wheeled-vehicle trails. The two overlapping modes of use are simply dangerous and incompatible.

  10. A Trail to Nowhere in a state where a bridge from the third largest city to their airport is a waste, and the Legislature can’t pass a budget. Yeah, a trail for non-resident college romantics on summer break to feed the bears and mosquitoes from is a great idea. After all, what else do you build in the world’s largest national park repository? Certainly not a road or a rail connection to the rest of the continent.

    • “National”? 1776 cambefore 1878 when the word “national” was coined to supplant surreptitiously the US Constitution revert America back to monarchies surreptitiou ownership. Still “secret”. Not ok. OUr Independence still stands regardless if fake, secretive, corporatism documents filed in 1771 at Christmas in the deepest winter during Christmas recess. The beginning of subterfuges still fooling the bona-fide nation of 50 certified states in union.

  11. I walked the Coast to Coast trail in England 7 years ago. It is one of many wildly popular long trails across National Parks, public bridal paths, challenging heights in the Lake District, rolling hills of Yorkshire, then through a pig then a couple of cow farms, another couple National Parks, to the opposite coast. About 140 miles. Lots of small businesses along the way cater to the thousands who walk this one of many such walking trails in Great Britain. I did a walk as well through the Scottish highlands.

    Alaska’s Long Trail is a great option for Alaska and will bring more tourism dollar$$$ to our state and our state’s businesses. Granted a bit more rugged than some other long trails, still that ‘rugged’ is why large numbers of folks are drawn to Alaska.

    • Maureen, your hike across England sounds delightful! I believe however that Alaska has more pressing challenges regarding infrastructure to tackle before we can entertain building something like the Trail described in this story. It is a tragedy that when the State was flush with Oil Dollars that it did not address access to mineral rich parts of our Great Land with infrastructure, we would have been the better if we had. At the very least it would have opened up the country for more foot paths!

      • It’s another domed city scheme, scam and fraud of identical proportions and those who desire it will be villified eventually. Things should be done decently and in order and “this” is not. What is the process due and tell us the exact names of those in a full FOI who have secretively already tampered with the process. You don’t surprise us with the tampered process.

  12. The homeless need more civilized trails to pitch tent and camp. A 500 mile trail, there be more places to camp.

  13. This is a very insane trail. It would only be usable from about late May to late August. Within local areas, just maybe a few more weeks. OUR weather up here would not support the the very few 3-5% of the people actually using it, therefore it is a waste of money. For those who desire this, you’re not looking at the majority of the people that would not be able to use it to make the construction $$$ worthwhile. Knowing our legislature, they’d probably budget it our of our PFD allotment Much of our money has already been “stolen” from us for the same “crappy” nonsense use. When are we going to understand it wouldn’t benefit the majority of Alaskans. IF YOU HAVE THE MONEY, WHY DON’T YOU BUILD IT YOURSELF. AND “PLEASE” don’t campaign for money from the lower 48, many states have enough problems financing their own projects. It ALSO has a habit of bringing outside political garbage $$$ and which we don’t need.

  14. Talk about permanent upkeep and maintenance. Looks good on paper but in reality most of those middle of nowhere miles between Anchorage and Fairbanks will not be used by the 98% of long trail users that stick to parts of the trail within a close driving distance to the urban areas. I’m all for developing Alaska eco-tourism but most sections of the proposed long trail will be surrounded by bush, obscuring the view past 50 feet. We have grandeur in Alaska, let’s put in some sections of trail that hit the highlights. With the Alaska Long Trail we are not talking about a long distance crest trail such as the PCT or Appalachian where there is constant eye candy. Most sections of the ALT will parallel the existing road corridor, have very limited views, and the memorable experience of the tourist will be mosquito swatting.

    • CA, you bring up a very valid and critical point that is so often overlooked by those advocating for more roads or trails in Alaska, and that is need for maintenance. It is one thing to make a one-time expenditure to develop a road or a trail, but quite another thing to establish the permanent institutional infrastructure, and to indefinitely pay, for its necessary ongoing maintenance.

      Planning and thinking long-term has never been a strong point of government, and is even much less the case nowadays.

  15. Taking the one percent in private fee title all the way back on purpose because the uni government and the monarchs are laughing at you idiot, dumb Alaskan communists all the way to the bank denuding you of your little US Constitution rights they took an oath to secure and defend for you. They are against your liberties you will soon see. When God and or the military stand up for us God will do the laughing ? not the senator jokers.

  16. This is purposeful, stupid malice on the part of all government players in contraversion of private property rights by dunces with filed oaths to secure and defend the rights of freemen in AK. You have been hoodwinked by your betters again. Or you are a bad guy yourself.

  17. THE USFS is a foreign corporation headquartered in the stateless, foreign City of London. You know this don’t you Murkowski and Dunleavy. Well, so do we. Are you registered foreign agents? If so leave your jobs immediately. ALASKA CANNOT and neither can the USA afford to give the gift of this installation to KIng Charles at this time and no you have no record of a decision that we the people want to pay for this surreptitious gift to a foreign monarch. No thanks. We’ll keep our Constitutional private property rights thank you very much. College try.

  18. GOV. I called your office to request a meeting with you but you are too high and mighty to respond. That was wrong of you.

  19. I knew Murkowski would do this as political payback because of her fury for many of her base supporting the only American President to implement the US Constitution. She doesn’t like that.

  20. We should build it and change thousands to use it. Also there should be bear bait stations every mile so the wildlife can enjoy the fruits of the trail.

  21. We should build it and charge thousands to use it. Also there should be bear bait stations every mile so the wildlife can enjoy the fruits of the trail.

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