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State, company resolve Boy Scout trail dispute

Parties agree to maintain public access on popular trail

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2002

Public access will be maintained on the Boy Scout Camp Road and the Herbert River Truck Road near Eagle Beach, under the terms of a recent legal settlement between the state and Channel Construction.

In return, the state Department of Transportation has agreed to make improvements to the roads "as soon as is practicable."

A trial had been pending on a lawsuit by the state and a countersuit by Channel Construction.

The legal action began in fall 2000 after Channel owner William "Shorty" Tonsgard placed a locked gate across Boy Scout Camp Road. The road leads to 147 acres owned by the company, as well as a public trail, public waterfront and, through the trail, the 200-acre camp.

Tonsgard said he was annoyed by trespassers and also was concerned for public safety because of construction activity on the company's property. He gave the Boy Scouts a key, and then removed the gate altogether within a couple of months, following complaints about the lost access to a popular trail.

The legal dispute centered on easements in deeds from 1935. Tonsgard said the roads hadn't been maintained, so the easements had reverted to Channel Construction. The state said sufficient maintenance had been performed to retain the easements, which were originally for the federal government but were passed to the state on Dec. 4, 2000.

Under the settlement, Channel Construction has agreed to stop challenging the validity of the easements.

And DOT will undertake a $200,000 resurfacing project, including repairs to a short bridge over a creek and signs warning of a hidden drop-off just beyond the trailhead cul-de-sac. The work could be done this summer.

"I guess we're satisfied with their recognition it's their responsibility" to maintain the road, said Daniel Hickey, attorney for Channel Construction. That removes the potential liability for the company associated with poor road conditions, he said.

Tonsgard has abandoned plans to build a private residence on the property, though, Hickey said.

State attorney Peter Putzier said the state got what it was after.

"Certainly the Juneau public is a big winner here," Putzier said. "They get to maintain the access to their trailhead."

Bill McAllister can be reached at billm@juneauempire.com.



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