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Popular trails closed until fire damage fixed

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Hikers: Just because daylight is increasing and snow is receding, that does not mean every trail is ready for foot traffic. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is asking people to stay off trails during breakup that sustained damage in last year’s Swan Lake Fire.

Skyline Trail, leaving from the Sterling Highway near Jean Lake, is closed this month. Also closed are the Kenai River and Hideout trails, with trailheads near each other on Skilak Lake Road. Fuller Lakes Trail, also on the Sterling Highway, is open to Lower Fuller Lake but not beyond. And the Seven Lakes Trail is mostly closed, except for the short sections that access the Kelly Lake and Engineer Lake public-use cabins.

The refuge posted a video over the weekend asking people to heed trail closure signs.

“Public safety is our number-one concern when considering reopening of the trail. We have found many hazards along the trail, which include fire-impacted trees with unstable roots, rocks have become loose with the potential to roll downhill unexpectedly and active hot ash pits on and near the trail,” said Mike McNulty, trail crew leader.

“Erosion created by stepping around fallen trees over the trail destroys and creates ruts, potholes and washouts that will make this trail impassible and will slow the return of regrowth like willows, fireweed and grasses,” saidChrista Kennedy, trails volunteer coordinator.

Trail crews are planning to get to work soon but continued foot traffic will add additional work and time to get trails opened again. Crews were able to open the popular Hidden Creek and Skilak Overlook trails last fall. But be warned that Skilak Lake Road can become difficult to drive during breakup. For other options, the Resurrection Pass and Russian Lakes trails, leaving from Cooper Landing, are open for use.

Jenny Neyman has been the general manager of KDLL since 2017. Before that she was a reporter and the Morning Edition host at KDLL.
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