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Old 05-22-2013, 09:48 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wasilla
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snowbear will become famous soon enough
Default Tourism Infrastructure GOAL 3 – INFRASTRUCTURE

I've been 'selected' to work on this. First meeting is tomorrow. I was part of the earlier efforts and don't remember eco-tourism rating so high...

MSB ECNOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN – Goal 3 C – Tourism Infrastructure
January 2013


Compared to most other boroughs in Alaska, Mat-Su enjoys a competitive advantage in infrastructure. Both of the state’s major highways – the Parks Highway and the Glenn Highway – traverse the heart of the Borough, intersecting between its two largest cities (Palmer and Wasilla). The Alaska Railroad runs parallel to the Parks Highway, carrying both freight and passengers through the Borough. Port MacKenzie offers deepwater access for exporting natural resources from the state’s interior. The majority of Mat-Su residents are a 45-minute drive to the state’s largest airport. The Matanasuka Electric Association (MEA) and the Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA) provide the Borough with reliable energy and telecommunications services, respectively.

Despite these advantages, continued improvement and expansion of infrastructure is critical to the long-term economic growth of Mat-Su. Rapid population growth has resulted in an overburdened transportation network and commuter congestion. The MSB estimates $1 billion needs to be invested in the Borough’s road system in 10 years in order to avoid future gridlock. In addition, concerns have arisen about the long-term supply and price of energy for commercial and residential users. The full development of Port MacKenzie will require substantial investments. Tourism resources must be improved to attract more visitors and capture more tourism spending within the Borough. Various areas of Mat-Su will need improved broadband telecommunications to connect residences, schools and businesses. The MSB should continue supporting the development of these infrastructure improvements, as well as others that enhance economic development opportunities in the Borough.

Strategy 3C: Continue expanding basic tourism infrastructure. Tourism has emerged as one of the Borough’s key industry sectors. Tourism is important to economic development because it represents a unique opportunity to cement the Mat-Su’s reputation as an area with a strong sense of place. Among its 2010 priorities, the Borough Assembly ranked tourism infrastructure as the highest priority goal using a point system.

In addition to providing a livelihood for many residents, tourism also supports small businesses spread across the Borough including both rural and remote areas, and allows such businesses and related lifestyles to exist. According to the Tourism Infrastructure Needs Study of the Borough conducted by the McDowell Group, the total annual value of the visitor industry to Mat-Su is $282 million, including $201 million in direct spending and $81 million in indirect and induced spending. The industry also supports nearly 4,000 jobs and more than $100 million in payroll.

Enhancing local economic growth through tourism should include popular options such as Cultural- and Eco-tourism. Ecotourism combines the traditional cultural tourism attributes of travel with the standard expectations of sustainability and the landscape/nature focus of ecotourism. Cultural tourism is immersion in the natural history, human heritage, arts, and philosophy of another region or country, and means traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. Travelers that are attracted to cultural tourism sites or amenities tend to be seeking a more sophisticated intellectual and emotional experience of a distinct place, different from their normal place of residence, with the intent to explore new perspectives on humanity. The special factors that appeal to cultural travelers include, but are not limited to:

• Remote/isolated locales

• Peaceful, quiet and tranquil sites

• Solitude

• Authentic cultural experiences

• Alternative heritage exploration
For the Borough to maximize the economic benefits of tourism, additional investments are required in basic tourism infrastructure, recreation, and facilities. Recognizing the need, the MSB commissioned an infrastructure needs study (mentioned above), organized a tourism summit, and held a destination trailhead workshop. These activities identified several priority tourism infrastructure needs. The MSB should continue existing efforts to invest in smaller, high priority needs, promote the development of large anchor projects, and identify appropriate funding sources.

3C.1: Invest in high priority infrastructure needs. The Tourism Infrastructure Study identified high priority infrastructure needs in the categories of visitor support services, highway enhancements, and trail and public recreation enhancements. Relatively low-cost investments include:

• Information kiosks and signage
• Highway gateways, restrooms, viewpoints, and signage
• Trailhead improvements, directional (wayfinding) signage, and mapping
At a higher investment level, other options include:

• Create a network of linked trails which connect to neighborhoods, works locations, recreation facilities and greenbelts, destinations, and schools

• Link new development and subdivisions to this network of trails

• Provide lighting along identified trail sections to encourage extended day and seasonal use as well as improve safety concerns

• Create smart phone friendly digital mapping specific to local users and other mapping specific to visitor needs; maintain diversity and identify trails by appropriate use, difficulty or challenge, surface, connections, etc.; provide information in multiple languages

• Establish sustainable trail design standards by use/user; develop partnerships to assist with trail maintenance and repairs

• Promote regional, seasonal, recreational, and cultural programs, activities, and events

• Promote creation of interpretive trails, outdoor meeting spaces, wildlife viewing areas, and environmental educational places

• Promote blueway trails

• Promote hunting, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing programs; encourage development of motorized and non-motorized excursions to remote locations

3C.2: Promote the development of larger anchor projects and world-class, diversified recreation opportunities. The MSB has been actively involved in promoting the development of anchor tourism and recreation attractions in the Borough. Such projects include:

• Hatcher Pass Ski Resort

• South Gateway Visitors Center

• Independence Mine State Park

• South Denali Visitors Center

• Glenn Highway Raptor Center

• Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge Natural Science Education/Community Center

3C.2: Promote destination recreation. Promote partnerships such as with the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau (Mat-Su CVB), Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers Association (VMHBA), the Mat Su Trails and Parks Foundation, and the Glenn Highway Partnership as well as public-private partnerships.

• Promote national, geologic, natural, and historic destinations (including designations, certifications, etc.) for local places such as Palmer’s historic landmarks (Nationally designated Historic Landmarks), scenic highway distinctions, glaciers, Borough and State parks, the Iditarod and other trails, etc.

• Identify and construct support infrastructure such as campgrounds, restrooms, trailheads, roadside parking, picnic areas, informational kiosks, maps, etc.

• Through online mediums, develop and maintain website(s) promoting tourism and recreation opportunities

3C.3: Identify funding sources. A major component of both the needs study and the tourism summit is the identification of appropriate sources of funding for tourism infrastructure. Options considered include:

• Raising the bed tax rate from 5 percent

• A new liquor tax

• Obtaining a portion of the state cruise ship head tax

• Additional car rental taxes

• License fees on four-wheelers

• Possible funding sources could include federal, state, and MSB partnerships.

3C.4: Promote Eco- and Cultural-Tourism.

• Establish a sense of place and identity that unifies the Borough in the mind of visitors

• Develop a strong brand equity identifying the borough and specific regions within (Identify and include diverse amenities, visitor experience opportunities, and cultural uniqueness of individual areas)

• Reinforce these brands through regional signage providing a sense of arrival

• Provide public maps clearly identifying key points of interest within the region

• Coordinate local tourism businesses and regional stakeholders to champion a more unified pursuit of infrastructure priorities

• Organize the strategic initiatives to grow and enhance tourism1
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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