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Fred Felkl, unsung hero of Auke Lake Trail

Posted: May 8, 2014 - 11:01pm
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Unsung trail hero Fred Felkl walks the Auke Lake Trail with his dog, Lily, whom he adopted after she showed up starving at his son's door. In his left hand are the tools of his volunteer trade, which he uses to sling trail undesirables (dog poop, a bone) impressive distances.  Mary Catharine Martin | Juneau Empire
Mary Catharine Martin | Juneau Empire
Unsung trail hero Fred Felkl walks the Auke Lake Trail with his dog, Lily, whom he adopted after she showed up starving at his son's door. In his left hand are the tools of his volunteer trade, which he uses to sling trail undesirables (dog poop, a bone) impressive distances.

If the Auke Lake Trail was something Fred Felkl could polish, it would sparkle.

Almost every morning for the last six years, rain, sleet, shine or snow, Felkl has walked the trail from Glacier Highway to Mendenhall Loop road and back, picking up trash, slinging dog poop and removing obstacles that might hinder runners, bikers and walkers.

Felkl, a retired auto shop owner, makes other improvements as well. A few years ago, he alerted the city to a fallen tree leaning over the beginnings of the trail. Workers came. They cut. They removed. But every morning, as he walked the trail, the bare stump bothered him.

So two years ago, he gathered some moss and covered the stump. Now, nothing looks out of place.

“After a while, I thought ‘I’m using this trail. I should do something,” he said. “I hate looking at garbage (on a) nice trail … To me, if it’s not natural, it’s gone.”

Dog poop, bagged or otherwise, is a constant.

“Most people are pretty good about it, but I can tell (when I’ve been) gone, when I come back,” he said.

He’s a pro by now — with the scooper he uses to pick it up, it gets 30 or 40 feet of air.

This winter, Felkl rigged up a rope that walkers could cling to for extra security when walking over the icy gangway. Unfortunately, it disappeared a few days later.

To those who frequent Auke Lake Trail in the morning, Felkl is a familiar sight.

“He does very good with this trail,” trail user Melanie White said. “It’s a great trail.”

Shortly afterward, Felkl kicked a large rock out of the pathway.

“That’s an ankle-buster there,” he said.

Auke Lake Trail is a city trail. When a tree fell into the gangway this winter, Felkl trimmed the branches he could and called the city for the rest. They cut a step into the tree so people could keep walking.

City Parks and Landscape Superintendent George Schaff said the city is getting the paperwork through to purchase a new gangway. He hopes a contractor will install it in early summer.

Felkl plans to keep walking the trail, and to keep cleaning it and making sure it’s walkable, for the foreseeable future. He also attributes his health in part to the trail; he hasn’t had a cold for years, he said.

“It makes me feel good,” he said. “It (the trail) makes your soul just calm down. That’s what it does for me.”

 

• This article is part of a recurring series on the unsung heroes of the Juneau trails. If you have a volunteer you’d like to suggest, email maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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