Once-hidden Hope is an increasingly popular destination for visitors in vehicles and on bicycles. Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area (KMTA) is working with Hope Inc., the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Chugach National Forest, and the Alaska Department of Transportation to develop a non-motorized trail along the Highway.
Planning is taking place now to establish what type of trail would meet user needs, who would maintain the trail, how to support visitor facilities, and how construction would be funded for an approximately 18-mile trail. A non-motorized, multiuse trail along the Hope Highway trail would provide safer travel alternatives, promote active transportation and recreation along Turnagain Arm, connect popular, long-distance National Forest trails, and support economic development.
KMTA is preparing the trail in phases to expedite construction and meet community needs. The first phase is planned to be an approximately 2-mile section within the community of Hope, allowing off-road pedestrian and cyclist to travel between the Old Hope Road in historic downtown and Mile 15 at Mud Lake. This path has been Hope’s highest priority capital improvement project for the past two years to improve resident safety. The proposed route is accessible from Hope School. Local contractors have pledged time and materials to carry out the project. KMTA is investing trail funds to secure permitting and defray construction costs.
Federal Highways Administration funding will be sought for the complete trail connecting to the Seward Highway pull-out and existing paved trail along the Seward Highway. The route, construction phasing, and design will be determined through a process of community input and coordination with various area land managers. The Hope Highway Trail is a strong national candidate because of improved access to public lands, including a National Recreational Trail, scenic vistas of Turnagain Arm along a branch of the National Historic Iditarod Trail, safety improvements, and community support.
The proposed trail will provide alternate transportation, recreational destinations, and dedicated trailhead facilities along the route. Long-distance trail connectivity is expected to promote tourism with increased spending on lodging and food.
Public process is integral to successfully build, maintain, and use the trail. The 2005 Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan documents public support for expanding roadside local trails, including within the community of Hope. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed a resolution of support for KMTA to plan and develop the Hope Highway trail at the February 14, 2017 meeting. Hope Inc. wrote a letter of support in September 2016.
Further local input on trail design, route, and facilities, will be gathered at the Hope Inc. meeting on April 1 at 4 p.m. in the Hope Social Hall. Proposed trail maps and updates are available at Hope Highway Trail Project.