Public Lands and Fatbikes

By Eeva Latosuo, Assistant Professor of Outdoor Studies

The temperature outside was a crisp 3F at 8am on November 21st. Nathan van der Most from Outdoor Programs met students in Outdoor Studies 40500: Recreation and the Public Land Resource at APU’s OP Gear room to set students up with winter fatbikes, bike helmets and poagies, which are warm parka like over-mittens for hands used in winter riding. Once outfitted the class was ready to roll, literally. Professor Eeva Latosuo stayed in the back of the pack, while six Outdoor Studies students pedaled through campus, around University Lake and then onward to Russian Jack municipal park.

APU has a gem of a trail system right around campus. Besides Nordic skiers, more and more of local winter bikers ride the fun single track trails connecting the university district to the vast Campbell Tract trail system south of campus or Chester Creek trails to the north. One can easily connect a 50 mile snow-bike ride on multiuse trails from campus. Outdoor Programs has a rental fleet of winter specific ‘fat tire’ bikes, making this activity more available for students and faculty at APU.

On this class outing students rode with headlamps in the semi dark Alaskan morning. By the time the group reached Selkregg Chalet at Russian Jack there was enough light to enjoy the surroundings. At the Chalet, Margaret Timmerman, Recreation Planner with the city of Anchorage, delivered a sharp presentation about the ups and downs of organizing outdoor recreation on the city’s public lands.

Weekly, students in the Rec and Public Lands class learn about public land management from professionals, both on field trips and as in class speakers. Most academic classes at APU make a strong connection to the community. This makes the learning real for students, and they connect with potential employers.

The ride back to campus was fast through another set of single track trails. Students returned the bikes on time to get to their next class with big fat smiles. Next week, this group is heading to Potter Marsh to visit staff of Chugach State Park headquarters. Will ice skating at Potter still be in shape? Ice skates anyone?