New trail set for Outer Pt.

City hopes to separate local and commercial trail users

Posted: Friday, February 09, 2001

The city plans to build a separate trail so local residents don't feel pushed by commercial users to the outer limits of Outer Point Trail.

The city Parks and Recreation Department, following the advice of its advisory committee, plans to spend $35,000 in cruise ship passenger fees to build another trail loop off mile 12 of the North Douglas Highway.

"It will be on city park property about mid-way between the False Outer Point beach area and the existing trail," said parks and landscape supervisor Bob Grochow, who walked the area in December. "The trail experience will be very similar, with forested, stream and shoreline areas."

Grochow estimates the new trail eventually could cost as much as $100,000. It will be about a one-mile loop. While the existing trail has boardwalk and planks, the new one could have hard-packed gravel and be wheelchair accessible.

The Parks and Recreation advisory committee voted Monday to create a second Outer Point trail to reduce problems between local residents and commercial users.

"If we can separate those users, there'd be less conflict," committee member Joan Herbage O'Keefe said. "The public has been very vocal ... We've been hearing that the passenger fee revenue is a perfect use for new trails since most of the commercial users come off the ships."

The city plans to start working on the new trail this spring and have it ready for use - although not completed - by the middle of June.

Once both loops are in place, one will be designated for commercial use. The city may alternate the trails so residents and guided groups can use each loop at different times.

James King of Trail Mix, a non-profit group that works on local trails, supports the separation. King, along with his parents and other volunteers, helped build the Outer Point Trail almost 20 years ago.

"I'm a firm believer that the best way to minimize conflicts is to separate the uses that are conflicting with each other," King said. "I feel that way for any trail conflicts, like with skiers and snowmobilers or mountain bikers and hikers."

Gastineau Guiding, a commercial user, may not even use the new trail. Owner Bob Janes said the existing loop wouldn't even exist without the support of his company. The boardwalks and loop were completed several years ago by the city, funded in part by commercial permit fees.

"We built our business with that loop in mind," Janes said. "We're open to going along with whatever works out well for everybody. We might continue pursuing a private trail in the same area."

That would be fine with many local users.

Merry Ellefson and Wayne Carnes have seen the use of Outer Point Trail increase tenfold, from hundreds to thousands of people a year.

Carnes recently wrote to the advisory committee, comparing the trail to Egan Drive. Both can be relaxing and beautiful, but neither is much fun during rush hour.

"It comes down to the carrying capacity and quality of experience," he wrote. "I believe the Outer Point Trail has passed the quality carrying capacity."

Janes' company stayed within its 6,000-person limit last season, but exceeded its permitted trips on weekends.

"We felt that was a breach of public trust," Ellefson said. "This is not personal, it's about the community and is part of a larger issue: What's the vision for expanding tourism on Douglas Island and the Juneau area."

Mike Sica can be reached at

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