Twenty-five years ago, Trail Mix, Inc. started as a group of volunteers who wanted to help maintain the miles and miles of trails around Juneau. Today, it’s the largest trail maintenance organization in Alaska.
All over the state, hiking trails cross between land owned by local, state and federal entities. Those governments can’t maintain parts of the trail owned by different departments, as Trail Mix Executive Director Erik Boraas explained, and a City and Borough of Juneau plan in 1992 stated that the city needed some kind of third-party group to dedicate itself to coordinate with all of those entities and work on the trails. The following year, Trail Mix was formed thanks to some CBJ money and a group of volunteers.
Boraas said the reason for the organization’s success is pretty simple.
“Community support,” Boraas said. “I think that’s what it is.”
The nonprofit is still mostly made of volunteers, but it has expanded into having the largest budget of any trail maintenance organization in the state, Boraas said. In recent years, they’ve done projects in Sitka, Prince of Wales Island, Cordova and elsewhere around the state.
George Schaaf, who was the executive director before Boraas and is currently the CBJ Parks and Recreation Director, said it’s unusual for a community of Juneau’s size to have an organization like Trail Mix. If you look a little closer, you can easily figure out why there’s so much community support.
In 2016, research firm McDowell Group did a survey for the CBJ Parks and Recreation Department that revealed that in the previous 12 months, 89 percent of Juneau residents had used a hiking trail and 78 percent of people in the survey ranked trails as a high or very high value for the community.
“You combine that with how tight-knit our community is,” Schaaf said.
There have been numerous examples over the years of how much trails and Trail Mix mean to Juneauites. This summer, when lumber was stolen from Trail Mix, the owners of Amalga Distillery donated enough money to purchase more equipment. Boraas also recalled a time when he heard about a couple getting engaged on a bridge that he helped install over Lawson Creek.
He has his own personal stories, too. Early in his time in Juneau, Boraas went running on the Treadwell Ditch Trail.
“I ran until I got to a big creek,” Boraas said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is really cool. I wish there was a bridge here. I want to continue on this trail.’”
A few years later, he helped put that bridge in.
The work on the Treadwell Ditch Trail has been going on since the mid-2000s, Boraas said, and people have talked about improving it since the 1970s. The hope, he said, is to have the full improvements (putting in bridges such as improving the tread) done in the next five years.
That project is one of the top ones on the organization’s priority list. Also on that list is a statewide master trails plan. Trail Mix Project Manager Ryan O’Shaughnessy said the goal of that is to make a list of trails that are priorities in different communities across the state, and sharing ideas about how to allocate funding and work on trails. The plan could also include legislative recommendations and ways to market the trails to attract visitors.
Trail Mix is holding its annual dinner and auction this Saturday from 6-9 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Tickets are $40 for members and $55 for non-members, and $10 for children between the ages of 2 and 10. Tickets usually go quickly, Boraas said. They’re available at Hearthside Books and the Juneau Arts and Humanities council, as well as online through the JAHC’s website.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.