Neighborhood pathways can be as important to community infrastructure as roads because they provide immediate escape into the natural world away from cars and highways.
Well-planned trail systems even play a role in transportation, making it possible to run errands or get to public transportation without getting into a car. A community trail system makes it possible for people to enjoy such healthy activities as walking or bicycling.
Switzer Creek Loop Trail was highlighted for this year's National Trails Day observation early this summer. Trail Mix, along with Southeast Alaska Guidance Association, sponsored a volunteer workday to spread gravel, remove windfalls, and clean up trash from the trail and stream.
The Switzer Creek Loop Trail is located off 6 Mile Old Glacier Highway. This popular neighborhood walking trail is approximately 2 miles long, with several trailheads.
A planked section of the trail begins at the intersection of Sunset Street and Alaska Avenue, crosses Switzer Creek and leads through a meadow to Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.
One portion of the trail passes through a peat bog. Another trail follows an old corduroy road into an area that was clear-cut in the 1930's. This trail goes along the hillside into old growth forest, then downhill across a stream, then uphill through another area that was clear-cut in the 1950's (known as "The Dismal Wood").
The Richard Marriott Trail segment begins at Lund Street. To reach main access for the Marriott Trail, turn on Davis Avenue at 6 Mile Glacier Highway, then go left on Lund Street to the end. A viewing platform and bridge about 200 feet from the trailhead protect the stream bank and provide excellent viewing possibilities for an entire school class. Spawning pink and chum salmon can be seen during the summer and fall, and silver salmon can be seen in the late fall and early winter. After the salmon eggs hatch in the spring, the fry stay in the stream for some time to feed.
This half-mile-long planked route with a viewing platform is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Marriott, who organized and led "Fish and Their Habitat" field trips to this area for Juneau's Seaweek program for fifth grade students.
The trail then joins the Switzer Creek Loop Trail. Turning to the left takes one to the intersection of the trail coming from Sunset Street. A turn to the right goes to the Mountain Avenue Trailhead.
The Mountain Avenue trailhead leads uphill to an old logging road, or connects to the lower loop trail across Switzer Creek, following the creek back to Lund Street. See Mary Lou King's "90 Short Walks around Juneau" for maps and detailed information on hiking the trail.
This community trail system provides an alternate means of transportation and offers a variety of users an immediate escape to the natural world.
As well as providing a route for students on their way to school and a lovely neighborhood walking area, the trail is used by blueberry pickers and by birdwatchers who can spot warblers, thrushes, sparrows and flycatchers along the way. Strollers can enjoy iris, chocolate lilies, buttercups and other wildflowers in the meadows, while students can observe fish rearing and spawning habitat, or explore old growth forest and previously clear-cut areas.
Thanks to the efforts of Trail Mix, SAGA and hard-working volunteers, the improved Switzer Creek Loop Trail is more enjoyable for many members our community.
Aaron Dean, of Scout Troop 55, chose to improve the lower portion of the Loop Trail between Mountain Avenue and Lund Street for his Eagle Scout project. Aaron and fellow Scouts graveled part of the trail last summer, and completed the project on National Trails Day. Aaron also assisted Trail Mix in constructing a new bridge over the creek.
National Trails Day is coordinated nationally by the American Hiking Society, a nonprofit trails organization, and locally by Trail Mix Inc. The theme of the 2001 National Trails Day event was "Saving The Trails In Your Community."
If you have not walked the trail recently, please plan to visit it soon.
Betty Seguin is member of Trail Mix. Regular meetings of Juneau Audubon Society will resume in September. Contact members at firstname.lastname@example.org.