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Public hears some OHV site possibilites

Posted: June 21, 2013 - 12:11am

The National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council held two events this week in hopes of sparking another conversation on the search for off-roading access in Juneau, a subject that has faced numerous challenges and proposals over the years.

On Wednesday, a strategy session addressed responsible recreational use of off-road vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles and motorbikes. A public workshop on Thursday addressed the proposed recreational vehicle park at mile 35 on Glacier Highway.

The proposed park is 500 acres between Point Bridget State Park and the Cowee Creek Watershed. It already has 47 acres cleared from logging in the 1950s.

Over the past week, RecConnect, a OHV trails consulting firm, surveyed the site which contains many constraints such as slopes, no slopes and cliffs, while considering comment from riders.

“There's a process in planning and the first process is to develop a vision. What do we want? What do the riders want? The second is to conduct a site assessment. And you can't conduct a site assessment till we have a vision,” Dick Dufourd, a consultant with RecConnect, said. “We had a rough vision before we came here and we've been here all week and we've been to the site and we still had some questions about the vision.”

The Parks and Recreation department believes this is the most viable piece of land for such use.

The idea is to disperse users on well-designed, sustainably constructed, interconnected loops that are mainly sized for two-way traffic. Implementing helmet laws and sound limits, trail passes or a local registration system are proposed are others ways to cater to enhanced rider enjoyability.

Some of the facility might also include a play area, motocross track, a kiddie track and a learner loop, though studies are still being conducted.

“Right now we don't know exactly what that mix is going to be,” Dufourd said.

Following the hour and a half presentation of the site's potential, Assembly member Karen Crane asked for an overall timeline of the project and where the city was in this process, adding: “500 acres is certainly sounding a lot smaller.”

Dufourd said that it would be nice if it were bigger, and while further exploration is needed, the space seemed adequate for riders' needs.

"It could be still a couple years before we get to turning dirt," Dufourd said. "As we get more information, we need to fine-tune the conceptual plan."

About $100,000 for the project would come from the five-year extension of the 1 percent temporary sales tax voted on last year, though the project would cost more than several million.

More than 30 were in attendance at Thursday’s meeting where, among the helmets and Fox Racing jerseys, resident Gail Smith asked about accountability, extra enforcement and the endangerment of the areas that surround the proposed land.

Those issues were addressed as hypotheticals at the meeting with the hopes that users will self-regulate and that authorities will enforce laws even with the nearest police or trooper station some 20 miles or more away.

“I can fully appreciate the need for an off-road vehicle park,” Smith said. "What I really want to know is when is the real meeting? When is the meeting for the community as a whole?”

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

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