After spending years on the drawing table, the Dzantik'i Heeni Trail became a reality over the summer.
The trail had been a part of a master plan the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School site since the late 1990s, but work remained stalled until last summer, when Trail Mix crews started formal construction.
The work was completed this summer, using money remaining from school construction funds.
The main trail - a 7-foot-wide path surfaced with a hard, silt-gravel mix - goes in a wide-ranging loop from the front to the back of the school. It is wide enough to accommodate class hikes, features four large bridges, and should be suitable for cross-country skiing this winter.
A smaller, narrower trail loops off the main route, offering students and other hikers a closer look at the environment.
"We are excited about it and appreciate the work Trail Mix has done," Dzantik'i Heeni principal Barb Mecum said. "Our motto is to connect kids to the world outside (and the trail) expands our classroom tremendously."
Paula Savikko, a teacher who took her Dzantik'i Heeni students out to flag and help clear early versions of the trail, said getting classes out on the trail will aid learning.
"You have to hit it in two different ways - purely academic (and also) from the heart, when you spend time in your world and get a sense of how beautiful it is, and how it affects you," Savikko said of teaching new concepts. "It makes the academic piece more powerful."
Savikko said springboard cuts are visible in stumps of old-growth trees along the trail - evidence of early logging efforts, and just one small lesson the trail can teach to students.
"It's a wonderful asset to the school," she said. "I love the idea of kids connecting to the environment, to nature."
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.