Erik Boraas has been named the new outdoor initiative coordinator for Haines Huts and Trails. (Photo courtesy of Erik Boraas)

For the first time, Haines Huts and Trails has hired a paid coordinator to manage its project to develop public recreation infrastructure around Haines. 

Erik Boraas, who previously directed the Juneau trail nonprofit Trail Mix was hired in the beginning of March on a two-year grant through the Denali Commission.

“It’s so exciting to have Erik as part of the community. I think they found a really good asset,” said Cindy Zuluaga Jimenez, acting director of the Haines Economic Development Center. 

Boraas is currently living in Juneau but planning to move to Haines in May. Boraas said he’d been looking for a reason to move to Haines after living in Juneau. He said the area has excellent potential for developing more outdoor infrastructure. 

“Haines has so much potential and opportunity for outdoor recreation and opportunity and there’s just not the infrastructure there yet,” said Boraas. 

Boraas’s hiring comes at a time of renewed focus on outdoor recreation infrastructure in Haines. Several members of the new assembly have emphasized parks and recreation, and the assembly recently rekindled a Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, which held its first full meeting earlier in March. 

Haines was also one of 25 communities to be selected for federal Recreation for Rural Economies Grant through the federal Environmental Protection Agency last year. The grant was aimed to help rural communities diversify their economies by developing outdoor infrastructure. The final report helped identify Haines Huts and Trails as a central player in growing Haines’ recreation infrastructure, which ultimately led the group to apply for a grant from the state’s Denali Commission to hire Boraas. 

Until now, Haines Huts and Trails had mostly been focused on building the area’s first public use cabin at Tukga above 7 Mile Saddle, according to board member Eben Sargent. 

Having Boraas on staff will allow the group to expand activities to include things like coordinating volunteer trail-clearing days at the ski trails at 25 Mile and identifying trails without established easements to ensure the public can access them for years to come. 

The $100,000 grant from the Denali Commission will help pay for Boraas’s position for two years. After that, the group will have to find funding, likely through other grant sources. 

Boraas said he’s confident he’ll be able to continue with the group. 

“I’ve been writing myself into grants for years in Juneau,” he said. 

For now, Boraas said he’s getting his feet under him by developing relationships with partners like the borough, Chilkoot Indian Association, Chilkat Indian Village, and HEDC. In March, he said he met with about 40 community members who showed up for an open house at Old Field Kitchen to talk about their priorities. He said he’ll continue to solicit ideas from the community. 

“As far as other projects, the sky’s the limit. It depends on what the community wants,” he said.