Volunteers work, learn on Trails Day

Before the Saturday morning bustle had a chance to begin, volunteer teams with the 17th annual Trails Day had already embarked to the Kachemak Bay State Park from Homer to tackle nine different trail clearing and building projects. In spite of the drizzling showers, all 79 local and visiting volunteers who signed up showed up.

This year’s projects included a beach cleanup at the Glacier Spit, a latrine installation on Chugachik Island, and brush clearing and trail maintenance on the Sadie Knob Trail and the North Lagoon Trail, which starts at the Alpine Ridge Trail and terminates at the Ranger Station in Halibut Cove Lagoon. 

A new method of transport for this year’s Trails Day was provided by Beluga Air, which dropped off six volunteers at the China Poot Lake for another trail clearing operation, an opportunity which “people jumped on,” said main transportation organizer Mako Haggerty. 

A family hike guided by Ed Berg, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service retiree, was offered among the Trails Day activities. From the Spit Trailhead to the Saddle Trailhead, Berg, who currently teaches geology at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage, highlighted the edible, medicinal and poisonous trailside plants and briefed the group on the geologic history of the area.

“I’m a great believer in trying to get kids into the outdoors studying nature as early as possible,” said Berg. He said the handful of attending toddlers and kids were the youngest he’s ever hosted on the family hike.  

Becky Ingram introduced her 19-month-old daughter Hadley to the trail along with her 4-year-old son Landis. 

“She did great, she was keeping right along,” said Ingram of her daughter. 

Cathy and Kevin Wilmeth weren’t about to leave behind their daughters, Sabre, 5, and Dee, 2, who they said have been hiking on trails since they could walk.

Roger McCampbell, chief ranger for the South Kenai district, and Eric Clarke surveyed the park in preparation for the event. They then requested a quota of public volunteers needed to complete each project and assigned workers and volunteer leaders from the Alaska State Park trail maintenance crew to lead each group. 

Main organizers Dorothy Melambianakis, Melisse Reichman and Haggerty applauded Homer Wilderness Leaders, or HoWL, for their involvement in this year’s Trails Day. The HoWL headquarters office was the central location of Trails Day registration and played a key role in the organization and smooth operation, Haggerty said. 

“In fact, an argument can be made that (HoWL) worked harder than anyone,” said Haggerty. 

Trails Day, which coincides with National Trails Day, originally sparked from an idea McCampbell had and with the support of the Kachemak Bay State Park Citizen Advisory Board the annual event began in 1997. Soon after, the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park was established and took over running the event.  

Water transportation across the bay was provided for a minimal fee of $20 per person. Quick Silver, Homer Ocean Charters, Mako’s Water Taxi, Ashore Water Taxi, Red Mountain Marine, True North, Bay Excursions and Bay Roamer were thanked by the organizers for their participation and donated time. 

Shannon Reid is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.