Impassioned opponents of a proposal to create snowmachine corridors at Eaglecrest Ski Area heavily outnumbered supporters during a Tuesday public hearing that had a last-minute change of venue to accommodate interest.
"I have had a season's pass for 29 years now. Eaglecrest should remain what it was from the beginning: a quiet family refuge," resident Silvia Gard said.
Roughly 200 people packed Centennial Hall, a majority speaking against the Juneau Snowmobile Club's proposal to access the ski area. Testimony was still ongoing after three hours, however.
Proposal proponents urged policymakers to find a way to allow for dual use of the municipally owned ski area to accommodate a sport growing in popularity.
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"I don't see a lot of compromise. I don't see a lot of willingness to listen," said Lisa Davis, who does not ride snowmobiles herself, but supports the proposal because family members are users.
"I don't snowmobile, but I know that snowmobiling saved the relationship between my husband and my son," she said.
The snowmobile club's proposal was submitted to the Eaglecrest Board on March 12 and proposes two six- to eight-foot-wide access corridors and an annual, post-season snowmobiling event. One corridor would be just outside the area's northeastern patrolled boundary. This would be open whenever snow conditions are favorable, whether the area is open or closed.
A second corridor would be up the Logjam and Raven ski runs to access the back side of Pittman Ridge. This corridor would only be open to snowmobiles after the ski season.
The back area is difficult to reach and hardly used, but motorized use is allowed.
Many proposal critics said the area around Mount Troy also should be excluded from snowmobile use, which creates problems with safety, noise and air pollution.
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See: Four hours of testimony on snowmobile club's proposal (audio).
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Others said that snowmobile users themselves have a poor track record of following established boundaries, particularly at places such as Spaulding Meadows.
Several opponents also commented on what they described as a tendency of snowmobile users to leave behind waste and be disruptive "beer drinkers."
"They leave dead machines," Gard said. "They throw garbage."
Scott Spickler, who said he is a beginning snowmachiner, said this characterization is unfair.
"I feel it is pretty much character assassination," he said. "I'm 51 years old and I'm not that way."
Other proposal opponents said that splitting use between motorized and nonmotorized just won't work because of safety and noise.
"Good people are snowmobilers and I just don't think that kind of characterization belongs here," skier Russell Heath said. "Regardless how well you practice your sport, it is fundamentally incompatible. It is just not possible."
"Go find your own area," longtime skier Al Shaw said.
Jim Becker, president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, said the business organization recently endorsed the snowmobile club's proposal.
"Certainly, Eaglecrest needs to develop some other economic enterprises and this is certainly another one. I would urge you to try and accommodate this proposal as much as you can, but at the same time minimize impact on other users," he said.
Comments on the proposal will be accepted until May 15. Submit comments to ski area manager Kirk Duncan at Kirk_Duncan@ci.juneau.ak.us or by mail to Eaglecrest at 155 S. Seward, Juneau, AK 99801.
The Eaglecrest board is slated to consider the proposal during its June 7 regular meeting.
Brittany Retherford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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