Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
YUKON DELTA: Teachers Build a Path to their Past with ?Tundra Legos?
Alaska Region, June 4, 2005
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A demonstration Geoblock trail or ?tundra lego? pathway has begun in Bethel. On June 4, National Trails Day, the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the National Park Service (NPS), the City of Bethel, and the Lower Kuskokwim School District conducted a trail building demonstration project ? representing a new age in transportation and resource protection. Around twenty teachers from villages within the Refuge, as well as a dozen Bethel participants, helped to build a 240-foot tundra friendly ATV trail in Bethel's Pinky's Park. The trail was constructed out of Geoblocks, which hook together like plastic ?life-sized legos? to form a flexible, durable road that is sturdy enough for ATVs to drive on while still protecting the tundra beneath it. The Geoblocks have 2? round holes that let rain drain and light fall through. Thus, the tundra vegetation underneath is protected and can continue to grow through the openings.

Subsistence hunters and gatherers use ATVs to access their traditional hunting and gathering sites. Driving on the tundra's fragile vegetation mat can quickly destroy the tundra. With continued use the trail becomes a deeply rutted, muddy track leaving trail scars that last lifetimes. When the track becomes too muddy to drive through, the ATV drivers shift to drier ground bordering the deep ruts creating an ever-widening path. The Geoblock material is one way to harden these trails and avoid further degradation of the tundra.

The village teachers who helped to build the demonstration Geoblock trail were eager to take their new knowledge back to their schools and village councils. The Refuge, City, School District, and NPS plan to continue this partnership seeking ways and means to train, fund and employ the use of Geoblock and other materials to harden ATV trails throughout the Refuge.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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