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.
In Spring of 2017, the school received a $20,000 Anchorage Park Foundation Challenge Grant to fund their park improvements. 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.
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. Students from Pacific Northern Academy, with their teachers Bruce Hamler (2016-2017), and Sarah Mariner (2017-2018), organized volunteers and raised funds to improve walking access to Ruth Arcand Park for the community and the school, as well as improve existing walking trails. The project received help from local landscape architect Elise Huggins who donated her time and expertise.
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.