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Anchorage "Trail Watch" makes trails safer for users

Trail Watch focuses on four main issues: 1) volunteer patrols, 2) trail maintenance reporting system, 3) enhanced signage, 4) better tracking system for reporting crime on the trails.

From Trail Watch

Map of AlaskaThe Municipality of Anchorage trail system is one of the city's most prized and well-used resources. However, in the summer of 2003, several well-publicized incidents on Anchorage trails systems prompted significant community safety concerns.

Trail Watch logo
Trail Watch logo

In response, the Municipality of Anchorage developed the Trail Watch program. Through the Trail Watch program, volunteers patrol Anchorage trails with clearly visible Trail Watch armbands. These volunteers serve as extra "eyes and ears" for local law enforcement and act as a deterrent for crime. Trail Watch volunteers also identify hazardous trail conditions and provide assistance to trail users. The city began to develop the program on August, 1, 2003 and the program was officially launched on September 15, 2003.

The program was designed as a community-based effort and the priorities and guidelines were developed through community input.  A series of meetings and interviews to learn about the habits and concerns of trail users were held. Major trail user groups like the Arctic Bicycle Club, the Nordic Ski Association, and the Friends of the Trails participated. Soon common concerns began to emerge:

  • Many of the trails are poorly lit or overgrown making them hazardous for users and providing potential opportunities for criminals

  • Many residents feel strongly about a particular part of the trail system and use this trail daily

  • Trail users wanted to take an active role in keeping trails safe

  • Scarcity of signs make navigating the trail system confusing

  • Professional emergency responders have a difficult time locating victims on the trails because victims often are unable to clearly articulate their location

  • The Anchorage Police Department cannot track the number of incidents that occur on MOA trails due to a gap in the current crime-reporting system

Based on these results, Trail Watch focused on four main issues:

  1. volunteer patrols
  2. trail maintenance reporting system
  3. enhanced signage
  4. better tracking system for reporting crime on the trails. 

Volunteer Patrols

In Responce to volunteer input, Trail Watch developed two levels of volunteerism. Trail Watchers are volunteers who patrol the trails according to their own schedule. Trail Watch Ambassadors patrol on a set schedule and receive additional training trail training.   

Train Maintenance Reporting System

Volunteers use the Trail Watch feedback form to report trail conditions and maintenance issues such as trail erosion, graffiti, broken trail lights, and damaged equipment. Since its official launch, volunteers have used the on-line system to submit over 200 reports.   

Enhanced Signage

In an effort to increase signage along city trails, the city was able to secure a major sponsorship from a local business. As a result, trail signs will be installed at the underpass and overpass of every trail/road intersection and large signs with detailed trail maps will be installed at major trail heads.

Crime Tracking and Reporting System

All Trail Watch volunteers are asked to watch an orientation hosted by Anchorage Police Department patrol officers and dispatch staff. In addition to receiving better reports from the trails, APD is implementing a new crime sub code &endash; "TR." This sub-code is added to the report of any incident that occurs on Anchorage trails and will enable the department to generate better statistics about crime on Anchorage trails. 

Community Partnerships

The program has received a positive response from many local businesses, community groups and non-profit organizations. For example, Trail Watch has partnered with the Anchorage Responsible Beverage Retailers' Association (ARBRA.) Through this partnership, Trail Watch volunteers report any alcohol-related litter on the trails and surrounding areas. An ARBRA member responds with a clean-up crew &endash; usually within 48 hours. A local outdoor gear retailer donated backpacks to the Trail Watch volunteers. A local software company donated an on-line calendar tool. And in 2004 the local branch of Convenant House has agreed to staff Trail Watch headquarters in the summer of 2004.


In the first month of 2003 operations, over 150 individuals have signed up to become Trail Watch volunteers. These volunteers submitted over 400 reports on-line about trail conditions and trail safety issues. Trail Watch volunteers helped summon emergency responders for injured trail users and assisted stranded cyclists to repair their bikes, reported suspicious activity on trails and in trail parking lots that has led to targeted police patrols. Trail Watch reports of litter resulted in the removal of over 1 ton of garbage by ARBRA volunteers. In 2004 over 160 individuals volunteered to the efforts of Trails Watch.

December 27, 2005

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