Unexploded ordnance found near trail system

Area near Fairbanks closed while military sweeps for shells

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2007

FAIRBANKS - A trail system frequented by hunters, hikers and berry pickers near the Denali Highway has been closed after a federal worker found an unexploded shell nearby.

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The 10-mile Swede Lake Trail System is closed indefinitely while the military sweeps the area for more unexploded ordnance, Sharon Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management, said Saturday.

"It's not a cause for panic," Wilson said. "You always have to err on the side of caution."

The U.S. Army likely left behind the shell after field exercises 30 or 40 years ago, Wilson said. The trail system was originally constructed by the military, Wilson said.

"That was their concern because stuff gets unstable after several years. We don't have any reason to believe there are other things out there."

Warning signs and red ribbons were posted at the trailhead at 16.2 Mile Denali Highway and along the trail network, she said.

A trail improvement worker found the unexploded ordnance Thursday about five miles from the highway, Wilson said.

Military officials were called in, and the shell was detonated, Wilson said.

Swede Lake property owners traveling to and from the Denali Highway are exempt from the trail closure, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Subsistence hunting begins Aug. 1. Wilson said her agency hopes the military completes the sweep by the middle of next month, when hunting is at its heaviest.

The Swede Lake Trail System continues south for approximately 10 miles through the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District to the Middle Fork of the Gulkana River, providing access to the Alphabet Hills and Dickey Lake.

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