Tee Harbor skiff access in jeopardy

Public may lose launch site unless city negotiates deal

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2006

A popular skiff launch site at Tee Harbor may go to the highest bidder if the city does not negotiate a deal with Alaska Mental Health Trust, the city's lands manager said.

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"Many people think the parcel is public property, but the Mental Health Trust actually owns it," Juneau Lands and Resources Manager Steve Gilbertson said. "If the city does not purchase the property it will go to the highest bidder and public access opportunities will be lost, but we are confident an agreement will be reached."

Gilbertson said the site previously was owned by the state and acquired by the trust about 10 years ago. The parcel is a third of an acre and is at the south end of Tee Harbor. It is used year-round for launching skiffs free of charge, he said.

"The use of the unimproved launching area takes pressure off the Auke Bay and Amalga Harbor launching facilities," Gilbertson said. "This launch has been used for several generations."

In 2004 the city and the trust entered into a memorandum of agreement for an exchange of a number of properties owned by the trust, Gilbertson said. These properties included the National Guard Armory, a portion of the South Lena subdivision, property at Mile 7 Glacier Highway to be used for the new city Public Works Department facilities, and public access at Tee Harbor, he added.

The trust has determined that a land exchange for city property would not meet its needs and that the purchase of the properties at fair market value would have to take place, said Doug Campbell, trust land office senior resource manager. Trust ownership is similar to private ownership and is intended to provide funds for mental health programs, he said.

"We know how important this spot is to the community and we will work with the city," Campbell said. "I can tell you this will come to fruition quickly."

According to the new proposed 2006 assessments, the Tee Harbor parcel's estimated value has shot up from $176,000 in 2005 to $260,000 this year, Assessor Jim Canary said. The National Guard Armory assessed value is about $3.7 million. The land is $3.03 million and the structure is $635,000.

Juneau officials are negotiating to buy the downtown National Guard Armory as a potential site for a performing arts center. A few years ago the trust rejected the city's offer to trade land in Douglas, Lemon Creek and "out the road" for the armory site. Gilbertson said the mile 7 property is the only parcel for which an exchange was successful.

The trust and city staff have agreed to have the armory property and Tee Harbor property privately appraised. Once agreement is made on the fair market value, an appropriation ordinance will be forwarded to the Juneau Assembly for consideration, Gilbertson said.

"Having the unimproved access point in the public trust is wise, but there are no plans to improve this site," Port Director John Stone said. "There are no funds, as there are residents very close to the launch who have expressed their fears this may be developed."

Brad Rider agreed developing the site would be drastic, considering people just want to have easy, free access at the beach. Rider has taken his small skiff out several times, he said.

"It is perfect for people who just want to go out in a small skiff in protected waters," Rider said. "It should just be kept the way it is."

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