Howdy from the Alaska Outdoor Access Alliance,
We are the largest state in the union (even though we are considered a foreign country by many of the uneducated), the land of the midnight sun and very few roads. We also lay claim to the “Bridges to NOWHERE”, as the ‘outside politicians’ and people that have never been out of their own neighborhood have claimed.
“Have you ever looked at the map of Alaska?” I asked that question of a former teacher that was visiting us a few years back. How many roads did he see? “Hardly any”, was his answer. Now I’m willing to bet you are curious and are looking for your atlas, am I right? So where am I leading you to?
Trails!!! We need more trails so that people will be able to see this wonderful state as all pioneers have done over the centuries. We here in Alaska are experiencing the same problems as the lower 48 have had to cope with, such as the BLM plans, US Forest Service managements of trails and lands, critical habitat concerns by the Environmentalist groups that pop up when we don’t expect them, and trying to educate the public about access we have lost or in danger of losing.
The Alaska Outdoor Access Alliance, a group dedicated to keeping trails accessible for all user groups, was created and is committed to all forms of recreation. When we first organized we were faced with the BLM’s ‘East Alaska Resource Management Plan’, EARMP for short. This plan in its original form threatened to limit our use of major recreational areas in a popular hunting unit. Being the hunting state that we are, that raised some hackles!!! We are still working with BLM to make sure they don’t limit us again.
AOAA Meets the First Monday of Every Month at the Eagle River VFW in the Downstairs Meeting Room.
Since our Alliance formed we have been instrumental in the creation of the ‘Knik River Public Use Area’. This popular river has been the subject of editorials about the trash, random gunfire, car burning parties (and subsequent litter) and lawlessness of “all those ATV people”. We knew we were not to blame so we contacted our State Representative Bill Stoltze and our Senator, Charlie Huggins. Together we helped draft the legislation and boundaries of the public use area.
Along the way we were unsure of what was happening to our ‘baby’, and many of us had doubts that it would ever be passed. Our letters to the editor went unpublished because of the liberal newspapers in our area, but the opposition managed to get their thoughts published. One of our concerns was that it not be a part of Chugach State Park or that Park Rangers would hold enforcement. We wanted the State Troopers to address the safety issues and car burnings. Many of us in the Alliance and the general public testified by teleconference in the House and Senate committees to address these concerns.
On May 7th of 2006, we listened in on the final hearing in Juneau on this issue and were pleased that there were no major changes to the original bill and that a fiscal note to fund the enforcement and a DNR position was added. On June 30, 2006 Governor Murkowski signed this bill into law at the Knik River Bridge, a fitting tribute to a hard fought battle and one we are ready to involve ourselves in again if need be.
Like all organizations we have our share of individuals that think that they are ‘doing their duty’ by joining an organization. But they never come to a meeting or get involved after the initial investment. One of our founding members wrote in an article “Speak now… or live with what someone else wants”. Those words may not be his original words, but they are posted on my refrigerator and I see them every day. That is why I am also a member of the Alaska Outdoor Council, the NRA, and of course the Blue Ribbon Coalition.
There are no ready answers to keep people interested in an organization, but if someone does have one please let the rest of us in on the secret. When an issue pops up the question always is “Why didn’t you let me know?”