When I came to Alaska Methodist University as a member of the faculty and coach in 1967 there were no campus trails. There were bits and pieces of old roads, powerlines, and moose trails. The most visible abandoned road was the old Campbell Airstrip Road which provided access to Campbell Airstrip from the then small city of Anchorage. The airstrip was built during World War II and was a satellite facility to Elemendorf Field. It also was the access road onto the newly established Alaska Methodist University in 1959-60. It can still be seen at the bottom of the ski hill.
My programs desperately needed well designed trails on which to train skiers, runners, and to conduct physical education and fitness classes. I started in 1967 with a 1 km loop laid out around Grant Hall and the then Student Union Building (Atwood Center). As part of their training the ski team constructed the trail in several weeks using hand tools. Because all training during the week took place after class and labs it was necessary to light the loop. Materials were scrounged or were donated by Maintenance. The labor was shared by ski team and the maintenance department. All ditches for buried cable were hand dug by the ski team. It was the first lighted ski course in Anchorage.
In the autumn of 1968 and the spring of 1969 I laid out the first AMU 10km trail system. It consisted of a 4 km and 6 km loop and was contained within the AMU campus which then totaled over 500 acres. During the summer of 1989 my colleague, Jim Brown and I constructed the trail that remained in use for almost 15 years.
With the advent of the plastic skis which were much faster than the old wooden skis, the trail now was too narrow with too many tight turns. It was dangerous so in the early nineteen eighties I designed the present trail. The clearing of trees was done by John McKee a graduate student and me. The bulldozer work was donated by Chris Berg Inc. and the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage. Most of the hand clean up work was done by the forestry class at the Anchorage School District Career Center over a two or three year period. (By this time we no longer had a Ski Team to do such work.)
Because of the topography, the trail contains no large hills or especially challenging terrain. Still it has provided a modest home training situation for the AMU cross country ski team, a once national collegiate power, US and Olympic Ski Team members who were also AMU Team members, Alaska Junior National Ski Team skiers and East High Ski Team skiers. It provides an "out the door" opportunity for our APU student without having to drive elsewhere.
Beginning in 1969 it was the site of the origin of the ever popular Tuesday Night Races now administered by the MOA Parks and Recreation Department. Tuesday night was the long distance weekly workout for the AMU Team and in order to encourage and stimulate competition we invited and included the US Biathlon Team which was based at Fort Richardson. We also included high school cross country runners and local runners. In those days there were very few running races for Anchorage runners beyond high school. The University of Alaska with its running and ski teams was not yet in existence.
The lighted 1km loop with a 1 km extension that utilized street lights on Providence Drive, and supplemented Coleman lanterns provided the course for the first night ski race held in Alaska in 1973. All these early events were hosted by the AMU Team and held on our campus.
The importance of the Trail now and the contribution it makes to the University and to the mid and eastern Anchorage communities is tremendous. It is the most heavily used of our (APU) recreational facilities. The system which now includes UAA and the MOA in conjunction with the Russian Jack system provides some 20km of continuous trail. Our trail is an integral part of the whole Anchorage system that includes Hillside/Service, Bicentennial Park, Chester Creek Greenbelt, the Coastal Trail and Kincaid Park.
It is possible to travel, unhindered, from the Chugach Mountain and Service High School all the way to Cook Inlet and Kincaid Park. Each year a National Calendar long distance ski race, the Tour of Anchorage, part of the Great American Ski Chase Series, winds its way through our campus.
Alaska Pacific University is embarked on a plan or design that will attempt to provide some of our trails for multi use including the activities of walking, running, ski joring and mountain biking. Because of a wide range of user interests and an ever increasing number of recreationists we think this is going to be the rational approach to winter operation and management for heavily used trails in the future. Multi use does not include any motorized activity. Multi use and groomed trails for cross country skiing are not compatible.
Since the latter part of the nineteen eighties the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage has assumed most of the summer and winter maintenance required on the trail. This maintenance is financed largely through individual voluntary contributions made through the Track Setting Pin Sales. Pins may be purchased at the Moseley Sports Center.
Chronological listing of APU ski facility development:
AMU Ski Jump - 30 meter hill - Design by Paul Crews Sr., welder Hans Metz and steel donated by Bill McClure and timbers and decking by Alaska Railroad, the crane by York Steel.
1 km lighted loop with short supporting loops - first lighted ski trail in Anchorage. Built by Jim Mahaffey and AMU Ski Team.
4km and 6km adjoining trail loops were built. Trails were laid out by Jim Mahaffey and built by Jim Mahaffey and Jim Brown. Some improvements were made later by the AMU Ski Teams.
APU/UAA Trail System - Redesign and reconstruction of the combined systems. APU design by Jim Mahaffey/UAA design by Nat Goodhue, Tom Besh and Jim Mahaffey. Clearing was done by John McGee and Jim Mahaffey. Bulldozer was donated by Kim Berg and work done by Paul Crews Jr., Bill Strutz, Jon Elliott, and Dick Mize. Kim Berg built and installed the first two bridges. The trail included the Lake Loop which now belongs to MOA Parks and Rec and is multiuse.
The bike trail between East High and College Gate was laid out by Nat Goodhue and Jim Mahaffey.
The APU/UAA commuter path from APU to the Consortium Library was laid out by Jim Mahaffey.