Eaglecrest is beginning work to determine what the recreational area should look like by 2030, and how facility managers should evaluate project proposals.
Eaglecrest put out a bid for a long-range plan and has contracted with McDowell Group, SE Group and Jan Caufield Consulting. The study is due back to the Eaglecrest board by June 1 2012.
Manager Kirk Duncan said several years ago Alaska Zipline Adventures came to the Eaglecrest board with a proposal and their endeavor was successful. A man from Haines sought to relocate his ATV tour business to Juneau, wanting to conduct short ATV tours on Eaglecrest.
“The majority of the community said no, no motorized traffic at the top of the mountain,” Duncan said.
What those ideas come back to is the fact Eaglecrest has no real mechanism for determining how to evaluate proposals. Duncan said the ATV proposal was well thought out and planned, but it did not meet the values of the community.
Plus, the only document somewhat resembling a long-range development plan was last drafted in 1985. Duncan said that plan called for a city population of about 60,000, 11 ski lifts and hotels.
“It was a fairly ambitious plan, and didn’t necessarily have a lot of grounding in reality,” Duncan said.
The McDowell plan will do several things, including forming a mechanism for Eaglecrest to judge project proposals based upon economics and community values.
“We don’t want to go through this process every time and try to figure out what’s acceptable what’s not acceptable,” Duncan said. “What does Eaglecrest look like in 2030? We want to get a well-developed sense of users and non-users. There are a lot of people hiking up there. We’re approaching 50 percent of the community being touched by Eaglecrest, with 50 percent of the people who don’t use us. What’s their opinion and what would they like to see?”
Jim Calvin, partner of McDowell Group, said there will be an assessment element to scope out options that economically and feasibly could be developed at Eaglecrest.
SE Group, which is subcontracting with McDowell Group, is an internationally-known firm that specializes in development of mountain resorts. Part of the study will include data on what works and doesn’t, and why.
“What are the market fundamentals about what might make sense?” Calvin asked. “Food service opportunities, lodging, all manner of possible development scenarios will be considered.”
Starting in the fall, the group will begin the public process portion of the study. Calvin said there will be telephone surveys to randomly selected Juneau residents and an online survey that any citizen can fill out. As the plan progresses, there will be several public information and discussion meetings.
“A big, big part of this is educating the public about what we collectively think about Eaglecrest and what might make sense from a marketing and economic perspective of Eaglecrest,” Calvin said. “We will have a website, news releases. We will make every effort to make sure anyone who wants opportunity to at least stay abreast of the process can.”
Duncan said the final plan will be sent to the Eaglecrest board for approval and then to the Assembly and be used as a guiding document until its no longer relevant.
Currently, activities at Eaglecrest in winter include recreational skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Search and rescue teams conduct training and practice exercises and Discovery Southeast plans educational opportunities.
When the mountain isn’t dusted in snow, the zipline operates, bike tours also go down the road and the rest of the activity is mostly free form: occasional weddings, blueberry picking and people hiking and biking. Duncan said there is a lot more activity with people swimming in the lakes up there as well.
Duncan said increased spring and summer activity at Eaglecrest has come because of the road development.
“There might have been five cars on a beautiful Saturday,” he said. “Now you could see 75 cars on a nice Saturday. One of the things we need to look at is Juneau is unique, nearly 1 million people get off the cruise boats. What do we want to look like as a commercial use? Some people say there shouldn’t be any commercial activity at Eaglecrest. Some say we should do everything possible to increase revenues at Eaglecrest.”
Duncan said the study will also try and find out how many people have those strong opinions and where people lie in the middle.
“The public will probably not see very much for a couple of months,” Duncan said. “Juneau is relatively difficult to deal with in the summertime. Anticipate an initial rollout sometime around Labor Day. We want to roll it out when people are around. We want to make sure nobody feels like we didn’t hear them. We want to make sure they have to opportunity to express whatever they want to express.”
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.