Parks committee prioritizes future goals


November 29, 2018

The parks and recreation advisory committee streamlined its recreation objectives for the borough’s updated comprehensive plan at its Tuesday meeting, but one popular ski and snow machining area barely made the list and prompted a discussion about land use, the scope of the committee and user groups’ rights.

Tasks such as supporting efforts to develop new recreation opportunities, developing a multi-use path from the ferry terminal to Battery Point and maintaining and repairing the Mount Ripinsky trail system were among the objectives the committee agreed should fall under its purview in relation to the borough’s comprehensive plan.

Keeping the priority to enhance public access near 25 Mile divided the group.

Committee member Lori Smith wanted to scrap the objective and said the committee should not attempt to regulate how people recreate on land owned by non-borough agencies, including the Alaska Department of Transportation, the University of Alaska and the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.

Commission chair Rich Chapell said part of their job was to provide a forum for discussing just those issues. “We’re just an advisory board,” Chapell said. “There are areas where there’s multiple land ownership. We can try to help people coordinate efforts.” Smith brought up an issue that occurred last winter when a pickup truck was driven over a portion of the 25 Mile ski track. The committee later asked representatives from the Chilkat Snowburners to attend a meeting so they could inform them of the truck’s activity, which some alleged was malicious. Smith said that was inappropriate.

“I’m for everyone to recreate out there at 25 Mile,” Smith said. “My concern is that we just not limit. Let’s just say I get some big rig and I want to go out there and spin around and you were there first and had ski tracks. I think I have the right to run over those.” Committee member Thom Ely said such activity is malicious.

Smith disagreed. “No, it’s not, because I might be going to the same place you’re going and I have a truck and you have skis. It’s owned by the eagle preserve, DOT and the university, and because you beat me out there two days earlier, it doesn’t mean I can’t go out on the third day and drive over those tracks. You don’t own them because you put those tracks down, whether it’s a snow machine, a walker or a skier.”

Ely said user groups should be respectful of other users and that the committee wasn’t trying to police anyone when it asked representatives from the snow machine group last winter.

“Part of the conversation is to have discussions with people and different user groups so we can work together rather than being adversarial,” Ely said.

The eagle preserve encompasses the bulk of the land where residents have voluntarily set ski tracks for more than 30 years. Snow machiners have also historically recreated in the area.

The committee decided to include the 25 Mile area as an objective. Goals include providing formal river access at Wells Bridge, restrooms, trails, a fishing area, setting ski tracks and snow machine trails in the area.

Objectives currently in the comprehensive plan that failed to make the committee’s cut Tuesday included stabilizing and restoring the Chilkoot River trail, finding public space for indoor fitness and negotiating agreement with commercial tour operators that use public trails to help maintain and improve them.

The committee also voted to make a budget request to the assembly that would pay for improving access to the beach and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at Picture Point Park, improving lighting and landscaping at George Mark Park and building a kayak launch at Carr’s Cove.

The assembly will consider the recommendations at a future meeting.


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