Back-country users urged to practice no-trace habits and reduce conflicts
A group active in year-round outdoor activities is beginning a campaign to urge backcountry visitors to Thompson Pass to clean up after themselves - and respect others while enjoying the great outdoors.
Levitation 49, the non-profit that supports outdoor sports and other projects in the Valdez area, is launching the campaign in an effort to reduce human waste - no matter the source - and encourage the various user groups to give each other space.
"Respect is the name and goal of a new campaign aimed at encouraging locals and visitors to take individual responsibility to minimize litter and human waste on the Thompson Pass, while also encouraging more courteous interactions between the increasing numbers of mechanized and human-powered users who come to Alaska's premier winter sports mecca," the group said Wednesday in a press release issued by Lee Harte, the group's executive director.
Hart noted a number of problems that have recurred each year on Thompson Pass, both during and after the winter ski season ends.
"For the past several springtimes, a couple of anonymous locals head to the Pass when the snow melts to voluntarily clean up the mess," she said noting that "...the volume and type of trash and waste hauled away is appalling; Shredders need to practice Leave No Trace principles whether they are parked along the shoulders of the Richardson Highway or tent camping deep in the backcountry."
Hart said conflicts between motorized users, such as snowmachiners and heli-skiiers and non-motorized users is also on the rise.
"Each season it seems the number of reports of flared tempers is increasing when different user groups intersect on the same slope objectives," she wrote, adding it is hoped the group's campaign will encourage what she called "voluntary compliance and self-policing of behaviors promoted by the Respect campaign ..."
It is hoped that voluntary self-management will keep Thompson Pass free of backcountry travel restrictions that are imposed in other popular winter-sporting areas such as those found in Turnagain and Hatchers Pass.
The group is selling stickers through it's Cafe Press store to promote the campaign, with hopes that local businesses will also join the effort and sell or give away the stickers.
"While the economic impact more winter visitors has on the local tourism economy is welcome," Hart said. "The flip side of the coin is that more trash is being left behind on the state-designated Special Use Area that flanks the 30-mile-long corridor along the only road in and out of Valdez."