New Pacific Northern Academy Trail Opens in Ruth Arcand Park

This September, teachers, and staff with Pacific Northern Academy joined Anchorage Park Foundation to celebrate the completion of a new nature trail through Ruth Arcand Park. The trail is a result of a Community Challenge Grant awarded to Pacific Northern Academy by Anchorage Park Foundation to create a new route to school for students through the park.

The ribbon-cutting was held with students and teachers at the end of a school-wide nature walk along the trail.┬áBut before the ribbon was cut, a special moment happened students with the Academy sang their school’s official song in celebration of the new trail.

Graduates of PNA who had helped with the project as elementary students returned and braved their shyness to share a few words on what the building the trail meant to them. For them, the trail is much more than just a safe route to school, but an important lesson of what can be accomplished neighbors get together and set out to make positive changes in their community. They did not just build a trail, but lasting memories that will inspire a lifetime of volunteerism and stewardship of Anchorage’s most special public lands.

The Community Challenge Grant program awards one to one matching cash grants for volunteer park and trail improvement projects in Anchorage. The program is made possible through the generous support of the Rasmuson Foundation.

The idea for the trail came from Sarah Mariner, a teacher with Pacific Northern Academy, who wanted to develop a small social trail into a permanent and accessible soft-service trail for neighborhood students. With their project approved, teachers at Pacific Northern Academy raised funds and helped organize volunteer days to make improvements along the trail. The project received help from local landscape architect Elise Huggins who donated her time and expertise.

The Community Challenge Grant program awards one to one matching cash grants for volunteer park and trail improvement projects in Anchorage. The program is made possible through the generous support of the Rasmuson Foundation.

YEP crews clear the trail (July 2019)

After a winter of successful fundraising, the trail was completed in July of 2019 by crews with Youth Employment in Parks. Teens spent two weeks in the summer heat, clearing thick brush and laying the foundation for the new soft surface. Before their work began, crews carefully surveyed the forest floor to create a low-grade trail that would be more accessible for individuals using wheelchairs and mobility difficulties.

The entrance to the trail can be found at Ruth Arcand Park between Spring Hill Elementary and Hanshew Middle School near Lake Otis Parkway pedestrian underpass.