The Mat-Su Trails & Parks Foundation strives to develop and maintain a quality trails and park system, which promotes healthy lifestyles, enriches our residents’ quality of life, and provides economic value by enhancing recreation, tourism, and business opportunities for all.
The Mat-Su Valley will have access to a connected system of trails and parks for all users and future generations, promoting healthy lifestyles and providing economic opportunity.
The Mat-Su Trails & Parks Foundation will empower people to build this trails and parks system by facilitating collaboration and funding projects.
- Develop an integrated system of trails and parks throughout the Mat-Su Borough.
- Support development and implementation of a formalized trail management plan that engages user groups to understand user requirements.
- Promote the benefits that trails and parks provide to our communities.
- Develop sustainable resources to support these goals.
Kathryn Swartz – Board Chair
Kathryn lives in Wasilla with her Alaskan husband, two children, and a large Bouvier des Flandres. Kathryn thrives on adventuring with her family and making positive things happen. She loves to hike, bike and cruise in our side-by-side. Her favorite place in the Valley is Hatcher Pass. When out and about with her family, her kids know her weak spot – – she is willing to stop at any ice cream shop.
Kathryn worked for 20 years in international development for the World Bank. Habla español. She is now employed by the Mat-Su Health Foundation.
Chris Jones – Vice Chair
Chris is a life long Alaskan and Vice Chair on the MSTPF Board. Raised in Anchorage, he relocated to the Mat-Su Valley with his family of four in 1983. “One of the best moves I’ve ever made.”
A retired PE Teacher and avid outdoorsman, Chris enjoys hiking the numerous hiking trails in valley mountains as well as biking, and skiing them. A former sport fishing guide he has been fortunate to experience many of the natural outdoor delights Alaska presents to us all. Besides having hiked, floated, and played on the Arctic Coast, the rivers and lakes there, and the interior, he has mountain biked the 2,800 mile Great Divide, and recently embarked on the 1700 mile Baja Divide.
Chris coaches Jr. Nordics for the Mat-Su Ski Club and grooms ski trails at GPRA, Archangel Rd., and Independence Mine and has worn many different hats in his lifetime. But his newest hat of one and half years serving on the MSTPF Board has been an honor and privilege and he looks forward to giving back so that others may experience the wonders of Alaska and playing a part in the development of parks and trails in the Matanuska – Susitna Valley. His wife Kathleen, also a retired teacher and lifelong Alaskan enjoys traveling Alaska, playing outdoors, and herself a former guide. They have two successful (outdoorsy) and beautiful adult children, Katy & Danny. Who could ask for more?
Desire’ Shepler – Secretary
More info coming soon…
Rachel is a long time Alaskan. Living in Alaskan communities since 1971, such as Nome, Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage and, since 1993, the Mat-Su Borough; Rachel appreciates planning and community participation in development and maintenance of the trails. Taking into account the various user groups is essential in collaboration and development of Trails and Parks in the Beautiful Mat-Su Borough. Rachel brings knowledge and experience of non-profit management to the Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation.
Although a trail user most of my life, I stumbled into trail issues big time after retiring as a public school teacher. Living in a recreational community of Willow has given me experiences in community trail planning and development and has allowed me to see the recreational potential of the Mat-Su area. My goal is for everybody to have easy access to recreational trails and parks directly from their homes as I have from mine. When not running, hiking, mushing or riding on the trails you will find me traveling or playing my tuba.
Dot is a retired vegetation ecologist who has lived in Palmer since 1980. Her research sites have taken her from Exit Glacier to Nolan in the southern Brooks Range. She has enjoyed hiking and camping since she was young, which led to her career choice and eventually to living in the Mat-Su Valley.
After retiring, she started trail running and then trail volunteer work. She wants to see more trail and park opportunities to provide desirable outdoor experiences for people of all ages, skill levels, and financial means. Kids and adults need places to enjoy the fresh air.
I grew up with a passion for the outdoors. I took my first solo adventure at about 5 years old, much to my parents alarm. But, at least they knew what they were in for. I spent most of my childhood exploring the woods near my house, wherever we lived; and my teens in a Boy Scout troop that planned a camp out every month, regardless of weather. This included canoe trips, 50 milers in the rain, and building igloos in 9 feet of snow.
I moved to Alaska in 1994 with my girlfriend. Her plan was to work for a few years to pay off student loans and then leave, again. She had grown up here and was trying to escape. As it happened, I fell in love with Alaska and she decided not to leave me here. I think I got the better end of the deal. We soon settled into a house, marriage, kids and careers. We moved to Mat-Su in 2001, eventually finding a home just off of the Matanuska Greenbelt trails, where I have spent the years since exploring the ever expanding trail system there; as well as as much of the thousands on miles of trails in Mat-Su as I can find. These explorations quickly led me to Hatcher Pass and all of the adventures available there. I have learned backcountry skiing, explored the huts, camped at Reed Lake, and mountain biked all of it.
Amy O’Connor’s love of all things trails was cultivated at an early age in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. From there she worked on mountain restoration projects in the Pyreness, the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness of Colorado, and the Andes before landing in Alaska 13 years ago. A dedication to public land and the people who thrive on it carried her through a decade long career as a law enforcment Park Ranger both with the National Park Service and Alaska State Parks. These days Ms. O’Connor avidly explores the trails of the Mat-Su from both a lower and higher perspective – either out exploring with her 2 girls, husband and Saint Bernard or enjoying some vistas and new trails from the back of her horse. She and her family run Crooked Fence Farm, raising pastured sheep and mastering the art of cheese-making. She works for The Alaska Center as the Mat-Su Program Manager.
Eric Phillips, Ex Officio
Eric Phillips has served as the Community Development Director for the Matanuska Susitna Borough since 2012.
Previous to his employment with the Borough, Eric spent 25+ years in a variety of management roles, including the private sector (A/E consulting), nonprofits, as well local/city and Federal government.
Eric graduated in 1991 with an MPA (Master of Public Administration), emphasis in environmental and natural resources management, in addition to two Bachelors of Science degrees earned in 1986. Eric has been an Alaska resident for almost 15 years, including stops in rainy Southeast (Petersburg) and the snow belt (Valdez).
He enjoys the outdoors and all the extremes Alaska has to offer.
Stuart R Leidner, Executive Director
Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation
Stuart migrated north to Alaska just over a year ago, as his wife embarked on a new career path. He has worked for more than a decade for a wide range of nonprofits; spanning land trusts to economic development. He has explored trails from the Appalachians to the North Cascades in all seasons and has eagerly sought out new adventures here in Alaska. When not managing the Mat Su Trails and Parks Foundation’s grant programs and The Chalet at Government Peak, you will find him out and about on the trails, wading a river fly rod in hand, working on the next project to enhance our vegetable garden production, or just hanging out with Nina and their dog Colter.
Cheyenne Peterson, Special Events Coordinator
The Chalet at Government Peak
Cheyenne is a lifelong Alaskan and has been a resident of the Fishhook community for over a decade where she lives with her husband and two boys. They are a very active family, participating in local youth sports and enjoying all the recreation opportunities Alaska and the Mat-Su Valley have to offer. Previously, she worked as an independent event planner for nearly 10 years and has experience coordinating weddings, holiday parties, business meetings, and sporting events throughout Anchorage and the Mat-Su. From Cheyenne, “I am very excited to showcase our beautiful facility at The Chalet and look forward to promoting this wonderful resource that the Mat-Su Borough has made available to everyone.”
Mat Su Trails and Parks Foundation
PO Box 652
Palmer, AK 99645
Starting July 1st 2017, our new office is located in downtown Palmer, AK.
642 S. Alaska Street, Suite 215
Palmer, AK 99645
Friends and Partners
Mat-Su Health Foundation
Mat-Su Ski Club
Herning Trail Initiative
Fishhook Community Council
Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau
Government Peak Recreation Area