Chena River Recreation Area temporarily limited to non-motorized access

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 4:36 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As of April 30, motorized vehicles have been temporarily banned from trails in the Chena River Recreation Area.

The temporary ban reoccurs annually with breakup as conditions soften due to warming temperatures and melting snow and ice.

“It makes the surface conditions very susceptible to damage like rutting or creating mudholes,” said Wyatt Derner, a park ranger for the Department of Natural Resources. The damage often results in trails being less enjoyable to ride on and putting a greater strain on the vehicles used by off-road enthusiasts. It also creates challenges the following winter however. “Then for winter time grooming operations, we have to wait that much longer to actually get enough of a snow base to fill in those damaged areas of the trail,” said Derner.

Repairing the damaged trails is also very costly, requiring lots of resources and time. “To repair damaged trails, we’re going to end up getting a trail crew put together, several people. We have to send out a trail dozer which is a specific machine and a small excavator and we have a small track vehicle that can actually haul gravel into trails,” Derner said. These resources require extra funding and the repairs can take an entire summer to complete.

Those who are unaware or ignore the temporary ban, might face consequences for operating a motor vehicle on the trails. This can include small fines ranging from $100 to $300 for violations such as vandalism. But, consequences could also be more severe. “Depending on how egregious it gets, you could actually start looking at a criminal charge,” Derner said.

Trails impacted by the temporary ban will have information posted on the trail information board, and the gates should be closed. The tentative end of the ban is May 26, the start of the Memorial Day weekend.

While motor vehicles are temporarily banned, access to the trails are still allowed for human powered transportation including skis, bikes, snowshoes and on foot hiking.