New Wetland Boardwalk into the Palmer Hay Flats Refuge officially opens to the public
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 10, 2016
Kim Sollien, 907-746-6406
Palmer, Alaska – Adrian Bell leads the Nature Club at Machetanz Elementary School. For the past year her students have been learning about the plants and animals that live in the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, directly across the street from their school and one of the most important year-round wildlife and outdoor recreational areas in the state. The area is home to some of their most loved Alaskan animals, and all five species of salmon. An ideal outdoor classroom.
Yet, up until recently, they were not allowed to visit.
Machetanz Elementary school is surrounded by a rapidly growing subdivision. But most of these neighbors have never walked, skied, fished or hunted in the Refuge of their backyard before.
The local nonprofit Great Land Trust has been working on this project for five years now. First they raised $1.5 million to purchase nearly 1,000 acres of private land – making the largest private inholding within the Refuge open to the public last year. Next they raised money to build a wetland boardwalk almost a mile out into the Refuge from two different trailheads, providing stunning and never before seen views and access to fishing and wildlife watching spots.
Like all of the teachers, students and parents, Adrian Bell is ecstatic. “This public access will be wonderful for the whole community and especially for students and teachers at Machetanz Elementary. It opens up innumerable opportunities for field studies using the Refuge as an outdoor laboratory without the hassle and expense of a bus field trip. We will have walking access to the Refuge, which will provide our students with many new meaningful, place-based, service learning projects.”
On Thursday, May 12, 2016 the Nature Club students gathered with project funders, partners, and Mayor Halter to cut the ribbon and officially open the boardwalk to the public.
Address is 4961 E. Nelson Rd.Wasilla, AK 99654
BACKGROUND: Wasilla Creek Conservation Project
- In December 2013, Great Land Trust (GLT) purchased and transferred 917 acres to the State, the largest private inholding within the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge (Refuge.)
- The acquisition created a wildlife corridor linking the 28,000 acre Palmer Hay Flats Refuge to the 5,000 acre Knik Islands GLT Conservation Easement lands and the 500,000 acre Chugach State Park.
- The land was donated as an addition to the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, and is now managed by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
- Rapid growth and urbanization in the Mat-Su Basin is threatening the fish habitat necessary to sustain healthy salmon populations and ultimately the quality of life for residents.
- Three miles of Wasilla Creek were conserved through this project, supporting all 5 species of salmon. Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum salmon all return in great numbers to the streams and lakes of the Mat-Su Basin each summer to spawn.
- Funders of the boardwalk project include the Rasmuson Foundation, Mat-Su Health Foundation, Mat-Su Trails & Parks Foundation, ConocoPhillips, ERM Foundation and hundreds of Great Land Trust donors.
- Local valley teens were hired to work with the Student Conservation Association the last two summers to build the boardwalk.