Efforts continue to improve Auke Lake

Following the Assembly’s decision on Monday to delay ordinance revisions that would reshape how Auke Lake is managed, steps to provide better and safer management are still underway, a city Parks and Recreation official told the Empire on Tuesday.


“It was our best effort to produce a rational plan based on the best available information,” said George Schaaf, Juneau’s parks and landscape superintendent. “What we tried to avoid was doing anything that was arbitrary or capricious.”

Though the Borough Assembly Committee of the Whole rejected revisions to the current management plan on Monday, the department is still moving forward.

One of the first things they hope will improve safety conditions around the lake is the installation of buoys and markers in “no wake” zones. First, they need the funds.

“We are trying to find the money for the buoys,” said Schaaf. “I want to purchase them as quickly as possible.”

The department will spend between $12,000 and $15,000 for about 20 buoys, Schaaff said, accounting for extras. Only 12 to 15 buoys would be set afloat.

Promoting a current groundskeeper’s assistant to a park ranger is also a short-term solution that would lend to more proactive policing of Auke Lake.

Safety concerns arose late last year when a jet ski accident took the life of a 16-year-old girl who was being pulled in a tube in the lake by a jet ski.

Several long-time residents encouraged the Assembly to heed the recommendations before it gathered. Many opposed the operation of high-speed vehicles on the lake. The recommendations made by the PRAC included prohibiting vessels of more than 10 horsepower.

“I personally use the lake for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, cross-county skiing, ice skating and walking (in the winter), as do many other community members,” wrote Deborah Reifenstein, a lake resident of 33 years. ”Unfortunately, none of these uses are compatible with high speed motorized vehicles of any sort.”

Along with restricting vessels to 10 horsepower, the proposed plan did away with length restrictions.

“We looked at it from every side we could, we really tried to find a way to make an argument” for not restricting size and horsepower, Schaaf said.

David Hanna, a long-time Auke Lake resident and one of the founders of the Juneau Watershed Partnership, praised the Assembly’s decision to hold-off on the revisions.

“I’m very thankful the Assembly didn’t act hurriedly,” Hanna said. “I think the Parks and Recreation plan was a gross overreaction and I think it was poorly executed.”

After seeing the lake go through changes over the years in ways of use, specifically since the 1960s and 1970s, Hanna believes educating riders and boaters on the lake is paramount in preventing further accidents.

Jet skiers, kayakers and other recreationalists could live in harmony if the current rules were enforced and motorists were required to pass safety courses, Hanna said.

“I just hope we can keep Auke Lake open for everybody to enjoy and have a safe place for motorsports,” Hanna said.

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.


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