Borough holds public hearing on motorized Lily Lake trail
December 22, 2021
Borough staff heard public input last week on a proposed grant application for a two-mile motorized trail near Lily Lake Road.
Comments reflected disagreement about the project, with some residents voicing support for more recreational opportunities near town and others expressing concerns about ecological impacts and conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users.
The trail – a two-mile loop for beginners – would be on borough lands near Mt. Riley, FAA and Small Tracts roads. Parking would be at the water treatment plant on Lily Lake Road.
The borough is deciding whether to re-apply for a grant through the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation’s Recreational Trails Program. The project was designed in 2020. Last spring the Planning Commission and the Haines Borough Assembly both unanimously approved a grant application, but the project wasn’t selected for funding.
For fiscal year 2022, the state program is funding only motorized trail projects, with a maximum award of $300,000 per project. If funded, construction of the Lily Lake trail would take place between May and November of next year, according to borough staff.
Several residents at the Dec. 16 hearing spoke in favor of the trail, arguing it could help the local outdoor economy and citing a desire for a nearby motorized trail where young people and novices could learn to ride snow machines and ATVs. Currently, the closest motorized trails to town are 25 miles away.
Lori Smith, a member of the parks and recreation committee, said parents have approached the committee in support of a motorized recreational area in the townsite because they don’t have time, due to work, to take their children up the highway to ride.
March Young, who runs a native tree nursery at 38 Mile, spoke against the trail out of concern that it would negatively impact the forest and hydrology.
“If you look at the town of Haines, you’ll notice we’ve unfortunately already lost most of the big tree lowland forests in the last century of development and infrastructure building. But on a positive note, one anomalous expanse of this forest remains in town,” Young said, referring to the area where the trail would go. “In the aftermath of the landslide, which occurred just on the other side of the ridge, we should be talking about a moratorium on tree cutting and road building on this mountain.”
Borough planner Dave Long said before trail construction there would be extensive field work to determine the trail’s exact location and it wouldn’t include cutting old-growth trees. Long also said the trail would be built a significant distance away from potential landslide zones and that the borough is awaiting the geotechnical report, due out in January, for further information about hydrology and landslide risk on Mount Riley.
No decisions were made at the hearing. A resolution to support the grant application is on the agenda at a Dec. 22 assembly meeting.
The Recreational Trails Program in 2020 funded 23 projects, including about $30,000 for improvements on the Ayiklutu (Seduction Point), Mount Riley, Battery Point and Council Grounds trails.