2021 Pathfinder Award

The Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation’s annual Pathfinder award is meant to honor and recognize those dedicated community members who go above and beyond to provide outdoor opportunities in our community! We are honored to announce that our second-ever Pathfinder award will be going to Steve Charles for his service, dedication, and advocacy for trails and parks in the Mat-Su. Thank you so much, Steve, for everything you do!

Steve Charles, a Willow resident, is a superstar for trails and parks in Willow and a never-ending source of inspiration and ideas for improving the trails and parks of the Mat-Su. He served on the board of the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation for nearly 10 years. During his time serving on the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation board, Steve was a never-ending source of knowledge, inspiration, and dedication to the Mat-Su community’s trails and parks.

Steve has also been a long-time member of the Willow Trails Committee, a standing committee of Willow Area Community Organization (WACO) which is recognized as this area’s community council. His steadfast dedication attracted a significant number of trail volunteers to his committee, many of whom have dedicated time and energy to trail development and maintenance for many years.  He has become an expert on all aspects of trail acquisition, and what each trail will need to be a successful winter or summer trail. He championed the development of the two master plans that guide the ongoing direction for trails: The Willow Area Winter Trails Plan and the Willow Summer Trails Master Plan.

Steve has developed an excellent website within the WACO website with not only the Willow trails highlighted but links to information about the trails of surrounding communities and many other important sites (www.waco-ak.org). Throughout his work, he has learned about and then led efforts to protect the historic role of trails in our area, and he works collaboratively with the Willow Historical and Wildlife Foundation to enhance our history. He most recently he has joined the Youth Forum, another standing committee of WACO whose current energies are predominantly dedicated to developing our 40-acre community park. The quality of his leadership and the work of his team are evident in every season when the awesome trails of Willow are enjoyed and praised by many, not only from Willow, but those who come to Willow just to use the trails.

In addition to his dedication to trails in Willow, Steve is also a long-standing leader within the community. He was a very involved member in the 2-year process to create the Willow Area Community Comprehensive Plan, finalized in 2013. Steve has developed significant networking relationships with the leaders throughout the state and at every level of government that have any kind of work or funding around trails and he shares those contacts freely. He participates in every fundraising effort that WACO develops, taking on significant event leadership for the annual Willow Winter State Carnival. He is also a staunch supporter of the Library Association and has created outdoor activity events that support reading and the library. And last, Steve participates with the Recycling Committee’s efforts to help residents to keep appropriate materials out of the landfill.

The Pathfinder Award is an annual award to honor an individual champion working to help build a world-class trails and parks network in the Mat-Su. The recipients of the Pathfinder Award are chosen by Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation Board. We have decided that there are enough wooden plaques in the world, so for this award, each recipient will be eligible to select a non-profit of their choice to grant $1,000. Steve has selected the Youth Forum, a committee of the Willow Area Community Organization whose goal is to, “develop a safe and accessible park that will provide the community with recreational and educational opportunities that promote wellness through physical activity in a natural setting.”

Pick. Click. Give.


While applying for their PFD online, Alaskans can choose to Pick.Click.Give. in increments of $25. All donations are tax deductible and donors will receive tax documentation from the State once their donations have been processed. Permanent Fund Dividend applications are available from January 1 to March 31, though Alaskans may choose to add or adjust their pledges online through August 31.

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The Mat-Su Trails & Parks Foundation partners with organizations and local governments on projects and efforts that expand and enhance the valley’s network of trails and parks. Find out how we can help fund your next trail, park, or recreation project!

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