My Turn: ATV proposal needs review

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I am a new resident to Juneau, and I attended the city-run public information session regarding the proposed Douglas Island all-terrain vehicle park.

I am concerned with the methodology used to determine noise decibel levels.

The city utilized unscientific testing to determine minimum and maximum decibel levels. They have no plans to hire an independent noise pollution study team.

The concerned citizens were told that the decibel level of one ATV is the same as the decibel level of multiple ATVs.

My main concern is that the City of Juneau is a co-applicant for this permit. It was quite apparent that the proposed off-road vehicle park is the city's hopeful solution for the problem of unregulated off-road vehicles. I would ask city officials to remember why the prior off-road vehicle locations were closed. Why did the Goldbelt Native Corporation decide to close Echo Cove to off-road vehicles?

Yes, there is a rock quarry along the Fish Creek area; however, the proposed 26-acre park would involve three areas of wetlands, along with a creation of trails through forested areas. There are a few households located approximately 350 feet away from the border.

The city's application does not contain plans for fencing or for enforcement. The former recreational areas were over 200 acres in size. The Department of Conversation and Natural Resources has found that the "major problem is road grinders, people who go off of trails."

I was raised in Pennsylvania, a state that ranks fourth in the country in sales of ATVs. Conservation groups in that state complain that ATV drivers destroy private property, damage parks and forests, and disrupt plant and animal life.

The EPA has researched that a single two-stroke ATV can emit as much pollution as more than 30 automobiles in a similar time-frame. The proposed park could potentially hold more than 50 ATVs at one time.

The proposed hours of operation would allow probable noise pollution from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days of the year. The city's representative stated that these hours represent a compromise from the initial application process, where the proposed closing time had been midnight.

I would recommend a more detailed application that would include a plan for fencing, enforcement and limited hours of operation. In other terms, a feasibility study should be performed before the application is considered. Does the public know the cost of building and maintaining the trails? What will be the impact on adjacent property owners? What are the emission pollutants from a total of 50 ATVs? The World Health Organization Web site, www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs258/en/, contains interesting fact sheets regarding community noise and dangerous decibel levels. I would ask the city - the co-applicant for this park - to further review their findings.

• Shannon Farr is a North Douglas resident.



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