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Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe LakeThe Horseshoe Lake Community covers over 3000 acres in a black spruce, birch and muskeg forest. Homes surrounding three lakes within the area are serviced by an unimproved gravel road. Originally developed in the early 50's by a handful of hearty Alaskans as a recreational area, Horseshoe Lake has transformed into a community with 135 homes or recreational cabins. The area was heavily impacted by the 1996 Miller's Reach Fire, which destroyed much of the forest and many homes and cabins in the area. There are no visible commercial businesses, but several residents operate a wide variety of small businesses from their homes from candy making, to a church camp, construction and dog mushing. A summer haven for water enthusiasts, these lakes are used for boating, fishing, water sports, float planes and parasailing. In the winter the lakes are used by ski planes, ice skaters, cross country skiers, snow machines, and dog mushers. A developed trail system in the surrounding area takes snow enthusiasts around the local area or up part of the famous Iditarod trail.

Since the 1996 fire, the neighbors have come together to form a strong community that is working together in positive ways. The area is serviced by the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department. Residents of the community coalesced after the fire and formed an informal Breakfast Club that has met twice a month at nearby restaurant for the past ten years. This dedicated group has accomplished several notable tasks. The once dead-end road has been extended and now creates a loop which provides two routes for ingress and egress. Many properties, however, still have no road access---but public access has been improved. Last year a four-year project was completed bringing natural gas into the area. Those with road access have been able to eliminate oil and propane fuel tanks from their properties. A voluntary neighborhood directory that was started after the fire, has grown to over 100 entries and now includes information such as emergency contacts, residents with fire pumps, and Firewise information. For the past three years residents have participated in a spring clean-up project, clearing the roadways of trash and, more importantly, woody debris left from fire that has fallen over during the winter because of wind and snow loads.

Horseshoe LakeWith the ten-year commemoration of the very devastating Miller's Reach Fire, the timing was right to create a Firewise Community in this area. As the first in Alaska, the group hopes to be a model for others of what can be accomplished when a community comes together. The main goal for the first year of this program was to educate all property owners about wildfire mitigation on their own properties. Firewise materials were distributed to over 250 property owners since June. Mitigation specialists performed over 32 fire risk ratings in the area this summer. The community has spent several hundred hours clearing away fire hazards and creating defensible fire space. Residents are working to provide better signage on their properties for first responders. Efforts are being made to construct hardwood fuel breaks in the area in two locations and improve community evacuation plans. The visible changes in the area over the last few months have been exciting. We are early in the process and look forward to a bright, Firewise future for our community.