Conservation students build trail network near Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge

CIRI and CIRI Alaska Tourism Corp. (CATC) sponsored a crew of Alaskan youth to build a trail this summer on CIRI land surrounding CATC’s Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. The crew of six youth plus two crew leaders spent 21 days in July and August working on a 1.2-mile segment to the network of trails surrounding the lodge.

The trail-building project is part of the Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) National Conservation Crews, a nationwide summer program that places groups of 6 to 8 young people ages 15 to 19 in national parks, forests, cultural sites and urban green spaces. Participants gain knowledge of restoration and land management, an increased awareness and respect for the environment, life skills and a positive work ethic. SCA sent about 3,000 youth out in trail crews this summer nationwide.

SCA’s programs also include internships for college students and community programs in more urban areas of the country. SCA has recently opened an office in Anchorage to better serve Alaskan youth.

CIRI descendent Teshonda Thomas, a member of the trail crew, heard about the project in school. Thomas is Alutiiq and Inupiaq from Anchorage and is starting her senior year in high school.

“I’ve never been out in the wilderness,” said Thomas. “I feel like I’m going to be building something that everyone can benefit from, everyone can appreciate.”

When completed, the trail near the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge will include scenic views of Denali, the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna River valley. It is also envisioned that the trail could connect with other trails on the property and be extended to connect to state trails bordering the property.