Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Crowd Rallies against recreation map plan


The future of mapping winter recreation sites in the Haines Borough was uncertain after more than 100 residents turned out Tuesday to criticize the effort.

They expressed fear that mapping would lead to freezing them – and their motorized vehicles – out of areas they’ve traditionally used.

Committee chair Rich Chapell wouldn’t speculate on the map’s future after the meeting. “I’m not sure what community members want to do. We’ll talk about it at our next meeting. We’ll also take assembly direction.”

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting included “winter recreation map delination and planning.”

Residents at the meeting said they feared closure of areas like 25 Mile Haines Highway and Kicking Horse Valley to snowmachines and ATVs.

“I think it’s kind of crazy that you guys just went out on a limb and decided to shut down half the valley,” said Charles DeWitt, representing the Haines Sportsman’s Association.

In an interview Wednesday, resident Ryan Cook, who hosts a Facebook page that generated interest in the meeting, said recreation committee member Thom Ely had previously sought to close Kicking Horse to motorized use. “We’ve seen Thom Ely try to do this before. We think that if no one had been at the meeting, it would have been a lot different.”

Ely, contacted Wednesday, said he served on a Lynn Canal Conservation committee that proposed Kicking Horse be designated non-motorized during comments on a state forest management plan about 10 years ago.

“There was a lot of opposition from snowmachiners, so that didn’t go anywhere. It’s a multi-use area. That’s fine,” Ely said.

The borough recreation committee, Ely said, wasn’t proposing any new, non-motorized uses. “That never came up and was never discussed. It was hype and fear from a faction of the community that thought they were going to get shut out of a certain area.”

Others at the meeting, however, expressed opposition to even mapping recreation areas. “We don’t want to be trapped,” said Kyle Ponsford. “We’ve got cameras pointed down our driveways so the world can look in at our properties. We are concerned about our freedoms and our privacy. We don’t want to put it on a map, where we snowmachine, or where we hike, or where we dog sled.”

Mike Mackowiak said eliminating motorized uses would amount to one group eliminating the rights of another.

The meeting – that had to be moved from a conference room to the public library’s main hall to accommodate the crowd – elicited mostly negative comments on meeting topics including efforts to identify area parks and to seek a bike-friendly community designation.

The idea for the map was launched last fall by the borough’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, and grew out of discussion of the borough’s heliski map, which designates areas for that activity, Chapell said.

“Some of our members said we should have a map dedicated to other users or include other users in the (heliski) map… The idea was planning winter recreation, so as the borough grows, everybody would have places to do what they wanted to do.”

Haines Borough Planner Holly Smith said the map discussion was never about restricting access. “It was more about building a knowledge base and sharing that.” Maps, she said, can produce misinformation and creating them can be emotional. “If you’re not careful when you are drawing the boundaries it can create conflict, so it has to be very involved.”

If the public wants such a map, a process to create one can be undertaken in a way that doesn’t create conflict, she said.

Smith said that maps help to create better definitions of areas, so snowmachine riders and cross-country skiers could plan their activities and not worry about running into each other.

In other Parks and Rec business, Dave Long and John Brower both applied to be on the committee, but several more applications came in after the meeting, Chapell said.The committee deferred making the decision to appoint a new member until all of the applicants could be considered.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 2.


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