Groomed snowmachine trails could become a thing of the past under new budget
Have you ever hit a snowmachine trail and thought, ‘Who's responsible for this trail maintenance?’ Those responsible are part of a statewide organization running on funding that was seemingly not included in the proposed budget for 2020.
Snowmachine groups across Alaska organized to form the Snowmobile Trails Advisory Council, or SnowTrac, two decades ago, according to Mat-Su Assemblyman Dan Mayfield, who also co-chairs the group.
"You know, it's quite a popular program, as it should be,” Mayfield said. “There's about 39,500-ish registered snow machines in the state, and about 85 percent of those derive some benefit from the SnowTrac Program."
SnowTrac comprises around 15 different Alaska snowmachining organizations. These organizations use funding from annual snowmachine registration fees to maintain trails around the state, and help keep them safe.
But Mayfield said funding has been running low as of late, and erasing the program’s funding would cause trail maintenance crews to close their doors for good.
"With some declining revenue in the program, it's pretty much within the last couple of years been mostly grooming projects," Mayfield said. “These groups who currently do grooming and mark trails will have to close their doors.”
With project money potentially declined in the budget, SnowTrac funding would be sought out in the General Fund for state expenditures -- which means no more trail maintenance, and a snowball effect.
"The end result of that will be that the SnowTrac Program will end, and grooming organizations across the state would not have that money available to them to groom the trails,” Mayfield said. “Which will ultimately make the trails less safe."
Mayfield said taking away project funding would not only make trails less safe, it could also impact wintertime revenue in rural areas.
"Communities will have less dollars because visitation will be less,” Mayfield said. “The SnowTrac Program really encourages winter visitation to a number of communities, and that of course supports business in those communities in the wintertime."
Mayfield wrote a formal letter to Gov. Dunleavy asking for reinstatement of funding for the program. In a further effort to get the governor’s attention, the Mat-Su Assembly will act on a resolution to reinstate the funding at the next regular assembly meeting, March 5th.
Channel 2 reached out to the Governor's Office for comment and did not hear back.