The Haines Borough Assembly unanimously approved a resolution on Sept. 22 supporting Haines Huts’ application for the state’s Recreational Trails Program matching grant to purchase an easement for the Ripinsky trail near 7 mile.

The Ripinsky trail crosses lands owned by a mix of public and private entities including the Bureau of Land Management, State of Alaska, Haines Borough, University of Alaska and Alaska Mental Health Trust.

The resolution notes that trail use by commercial tour operators “has created trespass issues on University of Alaska and Mental Health Trust lands.” Trail improvement projects are on hold until the trespass issues can be resolved.

At the Sept. 22 assembly meeting, Haines Huts chair Jessica Kayser Forster said the organization is in contact with the various landowners and has reached agreements to purchase the easements if the grant comes through.

The resolution states the assembly’s support for the application and commits $7,500 in borough funds for land appraisals, a 10% match required to apply for the grant, which awards up to $75,000 for non-motorized trail improvements.

Haines Huts will use the borough funds to conduct appraisals prior to the application, so they know exactly how much funding to request in the grant application, Kayser Forster said.

In an amendment to the resolution, assembly member Gabe Thomas suggested language specifying that their support is contingent upon the preservation of traditional land uses.

In 2019, the discharge of a gun near 20.5 Mile brought attention to an obscure parks law that prohibits the discharge of a firearm within half a mile of a developed facility, defined as a boat ramp, campground, picnic area, rest area, visitor’s information center, swim beach, trailhead, building, parking area or developed ski area.

Later that year, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Advisory Council voted to move the 25 Mile Chilkat Valley Wilderness Memorial from the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve into the Alaska Department of Transportation right of way after members learned that the structure would restrict hunting in the area.

“In order for me to support this (resolution), I would like to see this in writing that it’s not going to impede future use because, as somebody who’s lived here quite a long time, I’ve seen our areas, we start off with a great intention and then the next thing you know it’s reduced, it’s reduced, it’s reduced,” Thomas said at the Sept. 22 meeting.

Kayser Forster said the plan is to apply for the grant during the 2021 application cycle.