A group that is making suggestions about the level of commercial use on Juneau trails is asking for public input.
Last fall, the Trails Working Group started to talk about commercial group size, frequency and when operators should use local trails, Trail Mix President Alice Rarig said. The working group sponsored a public meeting Thursday to discuss the recommendations. From a list of 62 trails, the group last year identified 19 for commercial use, Rarig said. Community survey results are guiding the process, she said.
Of the 19 trails, 16 already are under permit for commercial use. The recommendations add the Mendenhall Glacier Moraine Ecology trail with improvements, a new Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School trail system and future trails at Eaglecrest Ski Area, with approval from its board of directors and without helicopter access.
The group's draft plan recommends against commercial use of Juneau's alpine ridges, but would permit two groups of 10 people per day on Mount Roberts above the tram to Gold Ridge and/or Sheep Mountain without motorized access. Alaska State Parks Area Superintendent Bill Garry said he wants to hear from the public about the recommendation.
"There are relatively few people who will want to go up that high on a guided trip that could last six or eight hours so most of the impacts would be relatively small," he said. According to the document, the trail will need upgrades and maintenance, with or without commercial use.
The draft plan recommends closing the Granite Creek Trail to commercial use and limiting tour groups to the main Perseverance Trail. But the group suggests Perseverance be extended from the terminus to the falls before restrictions are implemented. In the long run, the group is recommending the city and others seek an alternative commercial trail to replace Perseverance, said Juneau Assembly member and Trails Working Group Chairwoman Cathy Muoz.
The draft document recommends four groups a day of 15 people maximum, including guides, use the Treadwell Mine Historic Loop Trail. Commercial use would only be allowed on the trail, not the beach, with access from the Savikko Park parking lot. Commercial use would not be allowed Sundays and the Fourth of July, and groups would have to be off the trail by 5 p.m.
A second trail at Outer Point will bring new recommendations about commercial use, although specific details aren't finalized yet, according to City Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bob Grochow. The new trail should be finished in July, he said.
The recommendations will go to the Assembly and the group hopes to update the suggestions on a three-year cycle, Rarig said. The suggestions also will go to state and local agencies that issue permits. The U.S. Forest Service might have additional requirements before granting a commercial use permit for a specific trail, said Cindi Lagoudakis, a recreation planner who handles special use permits for the agency. In the city, permits run on a two-year cycle. Trails Working Group recommendations will be incorporated into next year's regulations, Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer said.
Gastineau Guiding Company owner and working group member Bob Janes said the process has gone well.
"The more comprehensive planning we get in all aspects of tourism, the better it's going to be, even though there have been concessions we've made as a commercial operator to get something that works long term," he said.
A complete list of recommendations is available at local libraries and the Parks and Recreation office. The public is invited to comment by writing to the city's Parks and Recreation Department at 155 South Seward St., Juneau, AK 99801 or by e-mailing Kim_Kiefer@ci.juneau.ak.us. Comments are due May 10 and the group will review the suggestions May 15 at the downtown library.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.