Hikers around Cooper Landing may soon see some new signs that are really aimed at trappers. KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran spoke with Lorraine Temple about the Cooper Landing Safe Trails initiative that hopes to bring some change to winter recreation in the area.
Competing and sometimes conflicting land uses are nothing new on the Peninsula. Even so, setting aside certain public areas for specific uses is a challenge. And sometimes, locals band together to mark their territory, as it were, in an effort to keep those disparate uses from coming into conflict. In this case, the potential for conflict is between trail users and trappers. Lorraine Temple, a former musher, is hoping some new signage around some of Cooper Landing’s more popular trails and recreation spots will keep those conflicts at bay.
Lorraine Temple: “What we’re trying to do in cooper Landing...is create a few specific areas that we know we can go and recreate with our dogs, kids, families and not have to have this overwhelming anxiety and stress of what might happen to our dogs. The dogs is really the big issue here, to be honest.
I don’t feel there’s any place, the places I normally go to recreate, hike around, enjoy the outdoors, are absolutely off limits in the winter for fear of a dog getting caught in a trap. I’ve heard this emotion many times, the same words keep coming to the top, ‘we’re being held hostage’... The trails we hike, ski, enjoy typically; the anxiety and stress of having a potential encounter is just too great and so a lot of us don’t go out. We just stay away.”
Shaylon Cochran: There are so many jurisdictions, you might be on borough or state of federal land in this part of the Peninsula, so it sounds like part of the effort is to just simply establish what normal and predictable uses are for these areas.
“That’s what we’re hoping. We’re choosing places that are the most highly, publicly used places. The Russian River campground, it’s groomed for skiing, it has a big bar across so when the snow’s good we can go ski back there. We’re not talking about the trails up to Russian Lakes, we’re just asking that the campground area be free of traps so we can go and ski and let our dogs run and not have to worry. I have huskies. Huskies will run. So a setback area of 40 feet doesn’t mean anything for my huskies. We’re asking for a setback of 400 yards. That might seem like a lot to some people. Actually, down in Juneau, they have quarter mile setbacks on their trails, so it’s not out of line. And we’re not asking for the whole Cooper Landing valley, we’re just asking for four specific places that have been used a lot by the public in the winter and just keep it at that and respect the trappers that want to pursue their endeavors. There’s plenty of backcountry...just give us a few areas to run our dogs safely.”
SC: This isn’t an issue that’s unique to Cooper Landing...I wonder are there other areas where you’ve seen some progress in trying to officially establish (uses). Are there other spots where that’s happening and there’s a path forward?
LT: “The Municipality of Anchorage has declared no trapping. Up in the (Mat-Su) Valley, Lynn Mitchell has been very active up there for years trying to establish some areas that are safer. It’s a struggle. A lot of groundwork has been laid by a lot of people. I’m coming on the coattails of some folks who have really put their heart and soul in… A lot of us in the community are saying it’s time. The analogy that keeps coming back is smoking. It used to be you could smoke anywhere, it was fine. But there comes a tipping point where people said this isn’t ok, the majority of the population doesn’t smoke...it needs to change.
I understand the history of trapping and how important it’s been to Alaska...Myself and a lot of others would like to see trapping kept in areas that are meant for that and aren’t visited so highly by the public.”