Supporters of the trail-building conservation corps started with CARES Act funding rallied in front of the Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, to urge state officials to continue funding

Supporters of the trail-building conservation corps started with CARES Act funding rallied in front of the Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, to urge state officials to continue funding

Advocates don’t want conservation corps efforts to trail off

Supporters call for statewide expansion of corps programs

A statewide coalition of outdoor groups is urging Alaska lawmakers to use federal relief money to fund a trail-building program they say will provide local jobs and boost the outdoor industry.

Supporters of Trails Build Alaska, an effort to create trails workforce development programs, staged a small demonstration Tuesday with earthmovers and track carriers noisily rumbling down Calhoun Avenue from the Governor’s Mansion to the Capitol.

The demonstration was organized by Trail Mix Inc., the nonprofit group responsible for the maintenance of Juneau’s trails, and called on lawmakers to fund trail-building programs across the state using American Rescue Plan Act money.

“We really see the outdoor recreation industry growing, and we have to build a workforce to accommodate that,” said Ryan O’Shaughnessy, Trail Mix’s executive director. “We have a concept that’s based on our conservation corp program in Juneau.”

Supporters of the conservation corps programs established with CARES Act funding last year rallied in front of the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, to advocate for continued funding. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Supporters of the conservation corps programs established with CARES Act funding last year rallied in front of the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, to advocate for continued funding. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

When the COVID-19 pandemic ended last year’s tourist season, the City and Borough of Juneau created an Economic Stabilization Task Force to help the city spend federal CARES Act relief money. One of the programs to come out of that task force was the COVID-19 Conservation Corps, a trail-building jobs program based on the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

Trail Mix says the program was extremely successful and can be used as a model by other municipalities to establish their own programs. The Sitka Conservation Society and Alaska Trails ran similar programs in 2020, O’Shaughnessy said, with similar success.

Trail Mix’s impact report says the program received a CBJ grant of $460,000, more than half of which went directly to worker paychecks. Other funds spent by the program went to local businesses, the report said, and provided workforce training to employees.

[New New Deal? City announces jobs program]

Trails Build Alaska supporters are asking lawmakers for $12 million to fund conservation corp projects statewide, O’Shaughnessy said, and once those programs are established there are other fund sources available to keep the programs going.

With the $460,000 grants from CBJ, Trail Mix says they were able to employ more than 30 people from July to December 2020 with average wages of $16,200, over 200 hours in workplace training and $18,000 on job training and certification to help employee’s careers.

The idea has bipartisan support in the Alaska State Legislature but the state’s budget isn’t settled yet. Wednesday is the last day of the Legislature’s regular session, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy has called two special sessions to allow lawmakers more time to allocate funds. One session begins May 20 and another Aug. 3, at which point lawmakers hope to have a clearer idea of how to best spend ARPA relief money.

“There’s a lot of value there,” said Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage. “I remember the days of that Conservation Corp value that was bringing to the outdoors.”

Shaw said he would support the funding, though he couldn’t say how much had been proposed for the program. The 1930s CCC built several trails in Alaska, Shaw said, including some on Flattop Mountain in his district. The CCC’s handiwork can be seen on trails and in totem poles around the capital city.

“It’s sort of a dilemma because you try to be fiscally conservative, but also you think about the value of what benefits us, relative to humanity, relative to our sense of purpose,” Shaw said. “I live in the outdoors. So setting aside that I am a fiscal conservative, the value of what we get in return is a bang for your buck.”

Track carriers used by trail builders to move gravel and dirt rumbled slowly down Calhoun Avenue on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, as supporters of conservation corps programs demonstrated from the Governor’s Mansion to the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Track carriers used by trail builders to move gravel and dirt rumbled slowly down Calhoun Avenue on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, as supporters of conservation corps programs demonstrated from the Governor’s Mansion to the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 29

Bus drivers picket outside the bus barn in Wasilla, Alaska on Jan. 26, 2023. Bus drivers in Alaska’s second-largest school district have gone on strike after delivering students to classes on Tuesday,  Jan. 31, citing unfair labor practices. (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News)
Mat-Su school bus drivers strike

ANCHORAGE — Bus drivers in Alaska’s second-largest school district went on strike… Continue reading

The Juneau School District’s recently announced its new directors of teaching and learning support and student services who are set to start in their positions in July. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
District selects new directors for teaching and learning support and student services

The new directors will take over their roles in the district in July.

The final Boeing 747 lands at Paine Field following a test flight, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Everett, Wash. Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, when it delivers the jumbo jet to cargo carrier Atlas Air. Since it debuted in 1969, the 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft, but it has been rendered obsolete by more profitable and fuel-efficient models. (Jennifer Buchanan / The Seattle Times)
Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE — Boeing bid farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It’s delivering… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, after returning from an event in Baltimore on infrastructure. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
Biden to end COVID-19 emergencies on May 11

The move would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response.

Carla Casulucan, shareholder relations manager for Huna Totem Corp., gives public testimony Monday night in support of the Huna Totem development and urged the city to vote against an ordinance that would have allowed the city to spend $300,000 to help plan the location of a proposed cruise ship dock at the downtown subport. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
City decides against spending on cruise ship dock planning

Assembly votes down ordinance after more than a dozen public comments against it.

Eaglecrest Ski Patrol received a report of an avalanche in closed terrain in the East Bowl Chutes at 10:10 a.m. Thursday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Most Read