Use of some ski trails at Birch Hill now require an easily obtained permit from the US Army Garrison Alaska.
Many of the ski trails at Birch Hill are on Fort Wainwright land, including Sunnyside, Cliffside, the Sonot Connector, White Bear (past the White Bear Access), and all the classical-only trails. If you like to ski any of those trails or use them in summer, please keep reading.
We are very fortunate to have a joint agreement with Fort Wainwright that allows us to use those trails seamlessly. In fact, it has been so seamless that many people don’t realize they have gone from a borough park (Birch Hill Recreation Area) onto military land (Fort Wainwright). But the military sometimes uses its land, which includes the biathlon range, for training purposes. During those times use is restricted.
For the most part, civilian users won’t notice anything has changed – except that you will need to get a permit (good for a year) and will need to check regularly to see if the trails are open for civilian use (which they will be most of the time). If you are planning to use the trails on military land you will need to bring your ID and a copy of your permit.
Nothing else will change. The NSCF will still groom the trails. They will be open to civilians most of the time. Races will still be held on them. The biathlon arm of the NSCF will still get to use the biathlon range.
For some time now, the military has required civilians to have a permit to use military land for recreation, such as for hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing. Until now, that has not been enforced at Birch Hill, but the regulations finally caught up to us. This is a change that has been in the works for a while.
Please don’t worry. There have been no indications from the military that there will be a massive enforcement campaign or any other big changes. It’s just that these trails need to be in compliance with the regulations.
Fortunately, the process to get a permit is not difficult. Please read the directions below.
(Note: If you already have a RAP for other activities, such as climbing Donnelly Dome or hunting and fishing on base, you do not need to get another RAP. However, the permit is good for only one year, so keep an eye on the date.)
Already have a military ID to get on base? You still need to get a RAP.
PERMIT AND SIGN-IN REQUIRED ON FT. WAINWRIGHT TRAILS AT BIRCH HILL
The US Army Garrison Alaska requires a “Recreational Access Permit” (RAP) and notification of access location and timing for all recreational activity on military lands in Alaska for individuals 16 years old and older.
This only applies to ski trails used by NSCF members on Ft. Wainwright as follows:
- East of the Borough’s Birch Hill Recreation Area (BHRA): all those trails east of White Bear Access, including White Cub, White Bear, Classic Bear, NorthStar, the Sonot Connector, Chinook, and Blackhawk
- South of the Borough’s BHRA: the Sunnyside trails and South Tower.
To obtain your permit go the army’s iSportsman homepage (https://usartrak.isportsman.net/) where you will set up an account and obtain a Recreational Access Permit (RAP) (UPDATE 08/01/2022: Now called the Sikes Act Permit) by clicking on “Register” in the blue menu bar on the top of the homepage; this takes you to a page that walks you through the process. You will set up an account with a username and password for online access and a PIN for telephonic access, then obtain your RAP. The permit is good for a year and costs $10. Print the RAP permit and photograph it or take a screenshot and keep a digital image on your phone; you will need to carry a paper copy of the RAP or have your phone with an image of the RAP with you on the trails.
Once you have your RAP, you can sign in online for your activity using the iSportsman homepage (https://usartrak.isportsman.net/). The easiest way to do this is too first determine when the Training Area (TA) covering the ski trails you intend to use, TA 115 for trails east of the BHRA or TA 111 for trails S of the BHRA (see above), is open for activity by clicking on the “Interactive Map” link, when you see the map use the arrows or cursor move Fairbanks to the center of the image, then zoom in until you can identify TA’s 111 and 115, which are the northernmost training areas on the map.
Next plug in the date or date range up to a total of 15 days for your activity; if the TA is open for the time period you have selected it will be green on the map. If the day or any single one of the days you have selected in a date range is not available the TA will be red on the map. If you ski a lot, its logical to sign in for the full fifteen days and repeat as necessary for the winter season, however you may have to go through a two-week period day by day in order to find the maximum number of continuous open days, beginning on the current day or the next day for the area and settle for that.
Next return to the iSportsman home page and sign in by clicking on the “Check In” tab on the blue menu bar, enter your username and password, select the day or day range for your access starting from the current day or the next day, then select TA 111 and/or 115; if you do not see 111 or 115 listed it is closed for at least one on the days you selected and you will have to go back to the interactive map and sort it out. Finally, scroll down to click on “continue” and then “confirm”. Note that it is not possible to sign-in for days following a closure until the day of the closure. There is no need to check out.
Alternatively, with your RAP number and PIN, you can check in telephonically by calling 1 (877) 250-9781. Select 1 at the first prompt and work your way through the menus from there.
If you have problems or questions regarding iSportsman please call (907) 361-9684 for help; normally there will be someone there to help you during business hours, but if no one answers please leave a message and your call will be returned.