Today we’re buying a landmark, trying to anyway. Kim Sollien is the Mat Su Program Director for Great Land Trust, a conservation group. She said they didn’t realize the Butte was privately owned until just this year.
“And so we were like ‘wow, that’s a surprise, we thought that was already public.’ Because the Mat Su Borough maintains a trail to the top,” Sollien said.
The borough does own part of the Butte, but not the top of it. The summit is owned by the Mental Health Trust.
“There’s a mixture of land owners. The Mat-Su borough has about 80 acres on the northwest side. And a couple of other farmers like the reindeer farm have a good portion of one side of the Butte, and a couple of other private land owners have another side. So, it’s a mix,” Sollien said.
Great Land Trust is only interested in preserving the top of the Butte. If they’re able to raise the money to purchase it, they’ll create a conservation easement on it, protecting from future development.
“Even though the summit of the Butte is the destination for hundreds and hundreds of hikers every year, it could because it’s owned by a private entity and doesn’t have a conservation easement on it, it could be developed as a cell tower farm,” Sollien said. “Or someday it could be feasible to mine it for granite and sell that for who knows what.”
Although Great Land Trust is responsible for the fund raising, the campaign has drawn in some private citizens, including Dan McDonough, a resident of Butte and creator of the Facebook Page “I Helped Buy the Butte.” McDonough says he’s hiked the Butte hundreds of times.
“I’ve hiked it at midnight to look at the northern lights, I’ve hiked it during the Lunar Eclipse, early in the morning for sunrises, we’ve brought Santa Clause out there and taken pictures of Santa up there. It definitely seems to be a center point of activity for us,” he said.
McDonough even started a weekly Butte hike. He says his group has been meeting up every Monday morning for more than a year now. He started the group after realizing how many people he knew had just given up on hiking.
“A lot of people that have done it are people that have gotten away a little bit from the outdoors,” McDonough said. “They did it when they were younger, and they let a bunch of time lapse and now that they’re older they say ‘I’m out of shape and it’s going to take me forever.’ It seems to be those types of people, but after they’ve done it a couple times they’re hooked.”
McDonough says that’s what makes the Butte so special. Just about anyone can do it, and the payoff at the top is well worth the hike. And Kim Sollien with Great Land Trust couldn’t agree more.
“The Butte hike is iconic. You can see the Knik Glacier, Matanuska River, Downtown Palmer, the farms, Knik Arm, Pioneer Peak, it’s just spectacular,” Sollien said. “And it’s really accessible for almost everyone so we would love to have everyone who loves the Butte, and has hiked the Butte to join us to help us buy the Butte so it can be protected forever.”
Sollien says they’ve raised roughly half of the $180,000 needed to buy the summit.