A trail at Auke Lake could be extended into a loop that connects the University of Alaska Southeast with its neighborhood, planners say.
The university has contracted with R&M Engineering to study the costs of various options.
The trail, linking Glacier Highway and Back Loop Road, now runs for roughly a mile in dense woods along the lake's eastern shore.
"The current trail is a very rough trail," said Kim Kiefer, the city's parks and recreation director. "It's up and down over tree roots and around muddy areas."
Besides improving the trail's surface, planners are looking at building a dock as a destination for swimmers or kayakers, an overlook and a parking area at 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.
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, closing the loop.
Whatever happens will be done in phases as the city and university search for funding, Kiefer said. The city now has $100,000 to put into the trail. The university has allotted $25,000 toward the planning process and expects to put in more, said Keith Gerken, director of facilities services at UAS.
Area residents at a public meeting Tuesday were pleased with the idea of improving and expanding the trail.
"People were so excited to have the university backing such a wonderful project," said Mary Lou Gerbi, who has lived near the lake for 11 years. "My only concern is that it is a nature trail, which is what they want, and not a freeway or for tourists."
Residents didn't want the trail to be available for commercial use such as guided hikes for tourists. And some were concerned about the impact of having a parking area at Back Loop Road and Goat Hill Road.
Residents also were worried that attracting more people to the lake could lead to more noise from personal watercraft commonly known by the brand name Jet Ski.
The university favors trail improvements because students have asked for more recreational opportunities, Gerken said. One reason students attend UAS is to enjoy the outdoors, he said. The university also wants to be less isolated from the community, he said.
"Our next piece of this is to actually try to put some costs on various options and put some reality to it," Gerken said. "We're at the stage where every idea is a good idea because there are no costs to it."
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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