Extending Auke Lake Trail into a loop connecting the University of Alaska Southeast with its neighborhood is part of a national trend to connect the community to its neighboring university, planners say.
"It is more than just a symbolic gesture to the community, but an actual physical gateway," said John Pugh, UAS chancellor. "Homeowners have been very supportive, although they were worried about increased parking at Goat Hill because they don't want an expanded parking lot there. There are no plans for that."
The university has contracted with R&M Engineering to study the costs of various options. Pugh estimates the trail would cost about $1.2 million for the university and $200,000 for the city. The trail may link Glacier Highway and Back Loop Road. The trail also could be extended into the woods north of Back Loop Road to connect to the university's student housing.
"This project will give the students an opportunity for walking and perhaps cross-country skiing in the winter," Pugh said.
Planners said student recruiting, aesthetics, promoting ecotourism and health are all reasons for building the trail.
"Really, nature is why I am here," sophomore Kirsten Longmeier said. She is an international studies major from Spokane, Wash. "I was recruited with a flyer showing Auke Lake and this little campus."
Mariah Warren grew up in Edna Bay, where the population is 80.
"There are trails (in Edna Bay), but nothing organized and accessible like this," Warren said. "That is why I volunteered with Trail Mix last year to help with another trail. Of course it is cool and why many of us are here."
Trail Mix is a nonprofit organization that helps plan and improve trails and resolve conflicts among user groups. City Parks and Recreation Director Marc Matsil said collaboration with Trail Mix, the city and UAS brought the trail project together. He said the trail system will link Auke Lake Trail to the Auke Coastal Trail to UAS in an effort to restore and enlarge Auke Lake Trail.
"It is gorgeous here and the beauty is unparalleled," Matsil said. "The community needs to prioritize trails and I commend the university for actually putting dollars into it."
A paved path already leads from the housing to the campus. A path could be created from the south end of the campus to the trailhead at Glacier Highway.
The university will not break ground on the project for at least a year, spokesman Kevin Myers said.