Alaska editorial: Money trails

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Considering how few roads exist in our region, Southeast has plenty of trails, allowing us relatively easy access to what we also have in abundance: nature.

A big reason many of us live in Alaska is the beautiful wilderness that surrounds us. Just looking outside is rewarding; it’s even better to get into it. Without established trails, though, all but the most experienced hikers would quickly get tangled up in roots and moss, sink to our hips in a muskeg or stumble painfully into a clump of devil’s club.

Trails are great for residents of Southeast, but they also attract visitors. Independent tourists as well as cruise ship passengers want to experience our lovely rainforest, and several local residents have started small tour-guide businesses that take visitors on nearby trails.

As news of our great trails system travels, the economic opportunities will grow.

A Douglas-based nonprofit organization called SEAtrails has been working for about 12 years to establish an interconnected system of trails throughout Southeast Alaska, and market that system in hopes of improving the regional economy. The organization’s goal is for Southeast trails to become as well-known as the Appalachian Trail.

Since its founding in 2000, SEAtrails has grown to include 19 Southeast communities, including Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island communities, and has obtained grants to help various communities improve their trails. The group promotes sea trails — navigable by kayak or canoe — as well as land trails, and has an informative website describing trails near each member community.

The group’s mission is a positive, healthy way to promote economic development in Alaska.

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