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A TIDEWATER TRAIL The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail was completed in 1987 and stretches 11 miles along Anchorages coastline from Second Avenue in downtown to Kincaid Park. The trail skirts the fault line of the 1964 earthquake travels through forests and offers up sweeping vistas for walkers and bicyclists where you can spot beluga whales and North Americas highest peak Mount McKinley all in a single view. Tony Knowles got his start in politics on the Anchorage Borough Assembly in 1975 and served on the Anchorage Assembly until 1980. He served as Mayor of Anchorage from 1981-87 and as Governor of Alaska from 1994-2002. Knowles echoes the comments that an enormous amount of planning and zoning was being done in the early 80s. Many new roads were being built and each time they were Knowles and others worked to make sure bike trails and beautification came along with them. The Coastal Trail had what Knowles terms a unique competitora Tidewater Freeway that the Department of Highways precursor to the Department of Transportation wanted to build from the Port of Anchorage to the airport. But with persistence by a number of trail advocates planners put the Coastal Trail on the Area- Wide Trails Plan in 1975. The freeway idea was defeated when Knowles was still on the Assembly. And in that same election citizens passed Project 80s which outlined support for projects including the Coastal Trail as well as the Z.J. Loussac Public Library the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts Sullivan Arena the Anchorage Museum and many others. It was an advisory vote that allocated no money but gave the city a guideline for spending money. When Knowles became mayor in 1981 a large amount of money was coming in to the city paving the way for completion of projects. But the right of way for the Coastal Trail would prove difficult. A number of private landowners did not favor the project. Robert Atwood publisher of the now defunct Anchorage Times owned a house along the route and consistently used his newspaper to print how wrong-minded he believed the project to be. More difficult was the railroad which was still owned by the federal government at that time. The railroad director told Knowles in no uncertain terms You will never get it. But there was strong public support for the project says Knowles. Eventually the railroad was sold to the State of Alaska which had a more positive disposition to the trail. Construction of phase one of the trail from downtown to Kincaid Park was completed in the six years that Knowles was in office. The trail is a real testimony to people power and the vision to insist on a unique piece of community identification. The strength of the project came from the grassroots Knowles recounts. He sees the trail as a great way for people to recreate and moreto meet up socialize and see wildlife. Ive been stopped I dont know how many times by a slow moose in the winter time waiting to get home Knowles recalls. When asked about phase two of the Coastal Trail which would connect Kincaid to Potter Marsh Knowles states Ive got it on my to-do list. Threats to the existing trail still mount on occasion. The Anchorage Airport owns some land that the Coastal Trail passes through. Recent proposals for another runway would put the trail in a tunnel. Bridges on the trail are aging and in need of replacement. Luckily voters approved a bond in April that will fund some bridge replacement. Knowles big vision is a trail that starts in downtown Anchorage and continues to Girdwood Portage and even Seward. Many connections to the south already existthe paths next to the Seward Highway and parts of the old highway that have been converted to trail at Bird to Gird and Canyon Creek. With more connections camping facilities and other amenities bikers could start pedaling in downtown Anchorage and connect all the way to Seward. As Anchorage celebrates its centennial its clear that citizens and the community will continue to benefit from the vision and the commitment that it took to build these two extraordinary trails and that people like Lanie Fleischer and Tony Knowles will continue to support and work hard for that vision. Steve Cleary is the executive director of Alaska Trails and a board member of Bike Anchorage. In 2014 bike counters deployed by the Municipality of Anchorage logged over 220000 bicyclists and pedestrians at Westchester Lagoon where the Lanie Fischer Chester Creek Trail and the Coastal Trail meet. Read more about the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail at AnchorageCoastalTrail.com. Former Governor Tony Knowles still resides in Anchorage and has phase two of the Coastal Trail on his to-do list. A longtime cyclist he will be featured on posters for the new Travel With Care safety campaign. Read more about it on page 23. ChrisArendPhotography 13