Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Mat-Su establishes first-of-its-kind sled dog

Palmer | Patty Sullivan | Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly unanimously approved the establishment of a Knik Sled Dog and Recreation Special Land Use District (SpUD) Tuesday night. The new district is likely the first of its kind in the nation.

"The Knik-Goose Bay area has grown by leaps and bounds, some 35 percent in the last census," said Borough Manager John Duffy. "We've been working with the community to develop land use regulations that enhance community development and protect historic dog mushing activities. We're pleased to have the first dog mushing land use district in the nation," Duffy said.

The Knik Sled Dog and Recreation SpUD encompasses the old town of Knik and many of the recreational trails that connect to the Iditarod National Historic Trail. There's likely more than 20 trails crisscrossing the area, but only a handful are legally dedicated trails. The district is located in the southwest corner of the Knik-Fairview Community Council area.

Preservation and protection of the community and lifestyle of the Knik area is the purpose for creating the new district. Community members place a high value on outdoor, historical, traditional recreational uses, which include dog mushing, snow machining and other recreational trail uses.

“I’ve been working on this since 1995 when Joe Reddington got me involved,” said Jon Brautigan in his testimony to the Assembly. Reddington was the father of the Iditarod Sled Dog race.

Within the SpUD, the keeping of sled dogs is allowed as long as the dog owners or caretakers live on the property. Standards are established in this district for buffering between different land uses and to protect views of the night sky.

Protecting and encouraging the establishment of trails to create an interconnected trail system is very important to this district. Assembly member Cindy Bettine introduced several amendments to the SpUD to specify how existing reserved trails are to be recognized and the process for establishing new trails. Bettine said funding for acquisition of trail easements in this district should be included in the Borough’s next budget.