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PRAC takes Fish Creek ATV park off the table

Goldbelt Quarry at Echo Cove will be recommended for off-road vehicle area

Posted: December 4, 2013 - 1:05am
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee heard public testimony on a potential off-highway vehicle park Tuesday in front of a full house at City Hall. Twenty-seven people addressed the committee at the meeting.    KATIE MORITZ | JUNEAU EMPIRE
KATIE MORITZ | JUNEAU EMPIRE
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee heard public testimony on a potential off-highway vehicle park Tuesday in front of a full house at City Hall. Twenty-seven people addressed the committee at the meeting.

More than five years after the Juneau Planning Commission denied a permit to build an off-highway vehicle (OHV) park on North Douglas, the site, along with four others, is back on the table for development of a park.

During a packed Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, however, North Douglas residents spoke against placing the park at the Fish Creek Rock Quarry, the location of the 2008 proposal. After public testimony, PRAC voted unanimously to recommend the city remove the quarry from the list of potential sites and to enter into negotiations with Goldbelt, Inc. to use its quarry at Echo Cove for an OHV park.

In the second public meeting on the topic in a month, 27 people were given three minutes each to say their piece. Speakers were split fairly evenly between people who operate OHVs and residents of North Douglas concerned by noise pollution that would come from a park being placed at the Fish Creek Rock Quarry.

Kent Sullivan was one of many North Douglas residents who rallied against placing the park near their homes in 2008. The fact that the Fish Creek location was once again presented as an option for an OHV park felt “like a punch in the gut,” Sullivan said after the meeting. Although it was good PRAC took public testimony into account, he said, the committee made it clear it has an advisory role, and the final decision will be made by the City Assembly. It makes the victory feel a bit “hollow,” he said.

“I’m happy, but it doesn’t end here,” Sullivan said.

An attorney, Sullivan said he’s representing several North Douglas residents on the issue.

“If the city moves forward on this, there will be litigation,” he said.

North Douglas speakers were supportive of a park being built elsewhere in Juneau; similarly, OHVers said they’d be happy no matter where a park is built.

“I’m all for being safe and finding a legal place to ride,” OHV user Jaret Reid said. “If I actually had a place to ride and call my own, and not get a ticket, I’d be for it.”

The other sites up for consideration by PRAC were the city-owned gravel pit or property owned by Duran Construction in Lemon Creek, a site at Mile 35 Glacier Highway and the Goldbelt, Inc.-owned quarry at Echo Cove. Potential Juneau OHV sites were analyzed in June by CBJ-hired consulting firm National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) Management Solutions. The firm made a presentation to Parks and Recreation on their findings in July. NOHVCC suggested the city revisit Fish Creek Rock Quarry as an option.

Several speakers at Tuesday’s meeting said a park should not be located near any neighborhood.

“I’m very adamant that we not displace one user group for another,” Fish Creek area resident Denice McPherson said. “If I lived in Lemon Creek, if I lived near the gravel pit by JPD, I wouldn’t think it was acceptable to have this kind of noise.”

Many North Douglas speakers said developing a park at the 35 Mile site would have the least impact on Juneau residents. But it is also the most spendy option; building the park at 35 Mile could cost the city an estimated $3 to $12 million, according to a city document distributed at the meeting.

“It’s a daunting site to develop,” PRAC chairman Jeff Wilson said.

He said he’s wary of taking dollars away from other parks and recreation projects to build an OHV park.

“I’m looking at money right now, too,” Wilson said.

The committee voted to recommend Mile 35 be considered as a secondary site if an agreement with Goldbelt cannot be reached. The Lemon Creek gravel pit and Duran Construction property options were also voted to be taken off the table.

Wilson stressed that by no means does PRAC have the final say on what will become of the OHV park.

“There is no perfect site,” Wilson said. “That’s why after 12 years we’re still here.”

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