Erosion Control Trailbuilding in Kwig, Alaska - Case Study

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Courtesy of Presto Geosystems

Living around Green Bay, Wis., all my life, I've grown accustomed to fairly harsh weather conditions. After all, Green Bay is often referred to as the 'frozen tundra' because of its long, cold winters. (And, of course, the 'frozen tundra of Lambeau Field' immortalized by Green Bays beloved Packers football team.)

So when the call came for me to travel to a real frozen tundra in one of Alaska's remote areas to assist with constructing an ATV trail. 1 was up for the challenge. I'd been to remote areas in Canada and was certain that I could handle roughing it for a week!

My destination? The village of Kwig-illingok. or simply 'Kwig' as the locals call it. a small town of about 400 people. 400 miles west of Anchorage on the northern shore of Kuskokwim Bay near the mouth of the Kwigillingok River. I flew from Anchorage via Bethel to Kwig on a small aircraft navigated by a bush pilot. I was warned about the remoteness of the site and encouraged 'to bring my own food for the week.' I was promised a room at either the local school or at a small cabin. Prior to researching. 1 pictured an area with mountains, dense trees, and polar bears, but later saw none of these.

All terrain vehicles (ATVs) are the only means of motorized transportation around Kwig. and are used extensively by the locals, mostly Yup'ik Eskimos. Most are employed with the school, village government, or local stores

In cooperation with the village of Kwigillingok and the Western Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration, a plan was approved to improve the Kuicuaq Slough subsistence trail at Kwg. The trail is a critical transportation link from the village to the confluence of two streams and to key fishing and hunting areas.

When the tundra is frozen, driving ATVs over the area is no problem. But when the tundra thaws. ATV traffic causes extensive damage and erosion to the wetlands ecosystem.

The plan specified an open-celled structural mat pavement system to facilitate travel and improve and protect the trail from damage caused by ATV traffic loads. The system was required to meet the following criteria: (1) capable of supporting all-terrain vehicles over soft and uneven ground. (2) allow vegetative growth through it. (3) provide support unfilled, and (4) capable of sustaining 100 passes by ATVs without showing significant wear.

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