More public involvement needed on trail survey

Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Many of us are happy to see the Juneau Assembly moving to establish what hiking trails will be designated non-commercial and commercial. A survey, sent to the public, asks what trails we want for commercial use, and is due Friday.

However, I wonder why the Trails Working Group, set up to evaluate and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and Assembly, appears to have a majority of visitor industry representatives or others who have leaned that way in the past. There is only one member from the public. There are the usual agency people and a representative from Eaglecrest.

Was any screening done with neighborhood associations and others before the 62 trails were sent to the public? Some of these trails should not be on the list, as they are in our back yards or are already receiving significant local public use. Who in their right mind would vote, in the survey, to increase congestion in their residential areas for commercial use?

This often involves construction of parking lots or additional facilities in the future, i.e. portable toilets and bulletin boards at trail heads. Some of the proposed 62 trails for commercial use are also located in areas of unstable soils, i.e. muskeg, and would be very expensive to upgrade for large commercial use operations.

Once a trail is designated commercial, it's relatively easy to increase use in the future and hard to rescind the designation. Some trails were dropped from consideration, although the criteria why is missing.

Most troubling, is the potential of the working group to merely use the survey results as a ``bean counter'' exercise to determine which trails will be designated as commercial. There is the danger that one neighborhood is pitted against another. Who obtains the most votes wins the commercial trails. In other words, those that say nothing end up with the commerial trails in their back yard? There is a community meeting on March 23 to hear the recommendations from the working group. Shouldn't there additional screening and more real public involvement prior to the recommendations?

Ron Wood

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