The University held the Auke Lake Trail dedication ceremony on Saturday, June 11, 2011. Chancellor John Pugh thanked campaign co-chairs, Laraine Derr, Christine Phillips, and Jim King, Sr. and the donors to the campaign that helped UAS raise over $1.22 million dollars, with $999,274 in private support and $223,982 in public support through the Alaska Trails Initiative. As part of the private support, the Rasmuson Foundation donated $500,000 – an outright donationof $250,000 and another $250,000 to match other private donations.
Speakers included campaign co-chair Laraine Derr, and CBJ Assembly member Mary Becker. Balance was brought to the event with special remarks from the Elders of the Aak’w people. Marie Olson spoke as Elder of the Aak’w Kwaan Eagle Shark people, and Rosa Miller spoke as Elder of the Aak’w Kwaan Raven Dog Salmon people. A special treat was the telling of the story of the Lady of the Lake by Liana Wallace. A special “Alumni 101” component of the dedication was an engaging lecture by UAS Professor of Geology, Cathy Connor, Ph.D., “Auke Lake Trail 101: A Natural History of Juneau.” Attendees were then invited on a guided trail walk with Dr. Connor and Chancellor Pugh.
A Trail to the Future
The University of Alaska Southeast, in collaboration with the City and Borough of Juneau, has upgraded the old Auke Lake Trail extending from the east side of the university through the city park and tracing the northeast lake shore. The trailhead sign explains that the trail is a collaborative project between the University of Alaska Southeast and the City and Borough of Juneau. It describes the educational, cultural and recreational impact of the trail, and acknowledges donors of $5,000 or more.
A beautiful historic photo of the original location’s highway bridge from the 1930s provides the backdrop for the sign for the pedestrian bridge named for Bill Sheffield, the fifth Governor of Alaska, who served from 1982-1986. Built over the pre-existing highway bridge foundation, the pedestrian bridge spans the estuary from Auke Lake to Auke Bay. The bridge is an essential element connecting the Auke Lake Trail to the UAS campus. One of Juneau’s most spectacular views of the Mendenhall Glacier may be seen from this bridge.
A special bird watching area was designated in honor of Judge Robert Boochever. Boochever was a member of the original site selection committee for the UAS campus. He chose the site because of its unsurpassed beauty. A former Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, he was the first Alaskan appointed to the US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit. His love of nature, especially bird watching, was a lifelong passion. The sign honoring Judge Boochever invites trail walkers to stop for a moment and take in the serene beauty of the place and enjoy the birds.
A bench was installed to honor the late Myra E. Howe. The plaque on the bench reads, “Driven to do the right thing while civil to all and still able to get it done her way.” Other major donors are highlighted in signage on the trail including the Rotary Club of Juneau, First National Bank Alaska, and UAS Alumni & Friends.
The trail provides improved access for anthropology, geology, and environmental science students to better utilize Auke Lake as a natural science lab only a few steps from campus. Anthropology students have found the remains of pioneer homesteads and a fox farm minutes from the Hendrickson Building. Geology students use GPS to create bathymetric maps of the lake bottom to learn more about the formation of the lake through glacial erosion. The Auke Lake Trail will features signs to educate all user groups on the natural and cultural history of the area.
The trail offers year-round recreational opportunities for both campus and the community as well as Juneau’s many visitors. The allure of a healthy lifestyle and interaction with the environment of Southeast Alaska is the overwhelming draw for new students, faculty, and staff to UAS. In support of UAS’ mission, the trail serves to bring our students into the natural environment to enhance their educational experience.
Building the trail permanently dedicates the east side of Auke Lake as a greenbelt, protecting it from future development while preserving it for use by migrating waterfowl and local wildlife. Auke Lake is part of a mainland watershed that feeds into Auke Bay. The University of Alaska collaborates with Alaska Fish and Game and the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide vital data from Auke Creek that informs fisheries management decisions in the Juneau area.