The rise of Juneau's trail King

Trail Mix executive director steps up as state parks chief

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2007

After years of making trails in Juneau, James King is taking a new path.King stepped down from his position as executive director of the nonprofit organization Trail Mix and on Friday began a new job: director of the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

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Beginning Monday, King will be working out of Anchorage. His new responsibilities include managing the 121 Alaska state parks and working with state park advisory boards.

Since taking the Trail Mix job in the winter of 1998, he's had the opportunity to work on some exciting projects throughout the community, King said in an interview.

"In one way or another, Trail Mix in that time period has touched almost every trail in Juneau," he said.

Some of those projects were as simple as clearing brush to complete renovations. Some were more complicated.

"The most exciting thing to me is seeing all the people out there enjoying them," King said.

During nearly a decade as Trail Mix's first executive director, and the only one to date, King was responsible for day-to-day operations, which included:

Negotiating contracts for trail work, overseeing work crew logistics, representing the organization at meetings of local, state, and federal agencies, coordinating planning efforts and public meetings and managing equipment, supplies, materials, and hiring of work crews.

Anyone who wants his old job can check out that information and more at The organization was cutting a ribbon Saturday for its latest effort, the Eagle Harbor Trail at Amalga Meadows north of the city.

During his time with the nonprofit, King said, three projects were special: constructing the Rain Forest Trail on Douglas; the complete renovation of Herbert Glacier Trail; and safety improvements to the popular Perseverance Trail just outside town.

King helped a fledgling nonprofit become a well known and important entity in Juneau, said former Trail Mix board president and current Vice President Alice Rarig.

"His vision and his energy were both critical in the development of Trail Mix as an effective organization," she said.

King has worked particularly well with the board, which is now interviewing for a new executive director, Rarig said. The board expects to fill the position this month, she said.

"He's leaving Trail Mix in very good shape," Rarig said. "Many of the systems that we needed to run a not-for-profit agency are now well in place."

Avid hiker and part-time Trail Mix office manager Karen Huntsman said King was a valuable asset to the nonprofit, not to mention the local trail system.

"He's very good at what he does," she said. "He'll be great at state parks. I think he has a good vision for the whole system."

Trail Mix's mission is to coordinate federal, state and city agencies and volunteers to cooperate in improving the trails around the capital city.

King's work at getting people and agencies to work together bodes well for Alaska.

"I've been impressed with his ability to help different conflicting user groups work together," Huntsman said. "That's a very good strength."

"One of the most valuable aspects of his leadership role as executive director was really in envisioning how successfully the state, local and federal agencies could work together with the public," Rarig said.

Coordinating volunteers and putting them to use is another of King's strengths, Huntsman said.

"We had over 3,100 hours of volunteer work last year, and they worked on more than 40 trails," she said. "We had over 22 miles seeing improvement from clearing and brushing (in 2006)."

King also has gotten the most out of the nonprofit's budget and was instrumental in securing grants, Rarig said.

"One of the goals of Trail Mix is to maximize dollars," she said. "We have gotten a tremendous amount of value for each public dollar."

King, who grew up in Juneau, is married and has four children.

He said it's been nice to see more people on local trails over the past decade.

"The number of people who get out and enjoy the (Tongass) national forest and the trails we have here in Juneau has been very rewarding," he said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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