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Save the Matanuska Greenbelt group to meet with university officials over gravel exploration concerns

In August, UAF began evaluating gravel resources on trails near the Matanuska Experiment Farm
UAF explores gravel resources along Matanuska Greenbelt trails in Palmer.
UAF explores gravel resources along Matanuska Greenbelt trails in Palmer.(Heather Hintze)
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 5:13 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Trail advocates who want to prevent gravel exploration on the Matanuska Greenbelt trails are meeting with university officials to discuss their concerns.

In August, the University of Alaska Fairbanks announced it was analyzing gravel resources on trails on the Matanuska Experiment Farm property in Palmer. Chancellor Dan White said the university made an agreement with the state to look at possible resource development to bring in more revenue because of state budget shortfalls.

Staff from several non-profits, including Alaska Farmland Trust, Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation and the Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers, teamed up to form the Save the Matanuska Greenbelt Advocacy Committee.

The group has an online meeting with White and the University Alaska system interim president to talk about solutions to UAF’s budget issue.

“The stakeholder group really feels like we’ve got a win to start because we’ve got the powers that be at the table with us and that’s really what we wanted,” said Amy Pettit, executive director of Alaska Farmland Trust. “We wanted them to come and listen to our concerns, listen to our solution ideas and listen to our perspectives on the value of the property.”

The exploration work was done about two miles from the Kin-Win trailhead on a 70-acre parcel that encompasses part of the 33-mile trail system. Pettit said she understands the university needs to find new ways to bring in money but said many people in the community want to keep the trails intact.

Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation Executive Director Wes Hoskins wants to find a longer-term solution to the financial strain.

“A gravel pit in the middle of the greenbelt is what we believe is short-term investment,” Hoskins said.

The university system had to cut millions of dollars for the upcoming fiscal year. In an interview in August, White said UAF has taken measures like cutting programs and selling assets and needs to look at money that can be made from the land.

“Resource development may or may not be a piece of it but we have to be able to answer the question,” White said.

The meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. It will be livestreamed on the Matanuska Greenbelt Shareholder Meeting Facebook page.

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