Warm weather and plowing in Anchorage mean clear trails likely a week away

A trail plow operator clears slush from a spur of the Coastal Trail near Earthquake Park on Mon. April 19, 2021. (Kavitha George/Alaska Public Media)

After a cold spring following a dark pandemic winter, temperatures in Anchorage are forecast to reach the 60s this week. And the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is hard at work, transforming the slushy remains of ski trails into clear paths for the bikes, strollers and roller bladers of summer.

On Monday, one of the same little yellow plows that clears sidewalks during the winter trundled down a trail near Earthquake Park, grinding up slush with a spinning blade attachment and spitting it out through a side pipe.

Plow operator Kara Nicolet clears slush and debris from the pipe of a trail plow near Earthquake Park on Mon. April 19, 2021. (Kavitha George/AKPM)

Mike Braniff, parks and trails safety superintendent, followed behind. He said the department starts to get calls around this time of year from residents hoping the trails will be clear enough to start spring activities.

“Once we reach the point that folks can no longer really ski on the trails, or fat bike on the trails, everybody’s very eager to transition it to bare asphalt,” he said.

Braniff said it takes 10 days to two weeks to fully clear the trails each year. For road bikers itching to get outside, the Ship Creek Trail is the clearest for biking so far. 

“None of them are as far along as Ship Creek Trail,” he said. “Campbell, Chester, the Coastal Trail … But gosh, I think with this weather … It’s going to be 61 degrees this afternoon? It’s really helping a lot.”

With the pandemic, trail use has been high in Anchorage this year, Parks and Recreation Community Engagement Coordinator Erin Kirkland said. 

“We noticed definitely an increase in year-round trail use. There’s thousands and thousands of Anchorage residents who have been taking advantage of our trails,” Kirkland said.

According to the National Weather Service, highs the rest of this week will be in the 50s and 60s with mostly clear skies. Braniff said he can’t make promises, but it’s likely trails should be clear within a week.

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Kavitha George is the host of Alaska Morning News at Alaska Public Media. She also reports on business, labor and the economy. Reach her at kgeorge@alaskapublic.org.