ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Last July, Alaskans went by the hundreds to catch a glimpse and a whiff of a dead humpback whale that washed up along the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.
The volume of foot traffic caused heavy erosion along the banks, so this year's Youth Employment in Parks team is creating a sustainable pathway down that will preserve the environment.
The trail will be known as Refuge Access at Jodhpur, but some are also dubbing it the "Whale Trail."
From hauling water to installing posts, removing dead trees and restoring vegetation, it's all work Luis Oropeza,18, finds rewarding.
"I'm learning quite a bit, I'm learning how to respect the wildlife as I'm building the trail and make sure that we don't leave trash or anything behind and we're making sure the trail looks nice and safe for people to come down," Oropeza.
Kylie Barham, 18, said the experience is not only teaching her to build a trail, but helping her find a career path.
"I did want to be a state trooper, wildlife state trooper, I've been in the APD youth academy and public safety classes, but now since I'm doing this, I like both," Barham said. "Now I'm kind of focusing on outdoor activities, so I want to be in Bureau of Land Management Recreation."
Brad Fidel, field educator for the Youth Employment in Parks program, said the teens are developing skills beyond the basics of building a trail.
"They're learning to be stewards of the land, they're learning about public lands and the importance of the habitat," Fidel said.
Henry Joling,18, said he wanted to get involved because other friends had gone through it before and recommended the program.
"I really love that I'm outside and I really like that I'm making the community a better place and we're making Alaska even more beautiful than it already is," Joling said.
The trail project is expected to be completed by Thursday, then the group will work on other projects, like bank restoration at Campbell Creek.