The Juneau Snowmobile Club was unable to convince the Eaglecrest Board of Directors to allow it to use parts of the city-owned ski area.
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At its meeting Thursday night, the board unanimously approved a resolution supporting continued year-round nonmotorized use at Eaglecrest.
Board President Jim Calvin said a tremendous amount of community feedback on the issue helped the board make its decision.
"Almost overwhelmingly it was in favor of maintaining the status of nonmotorized use," he said.
The city bans motorized vehicles in recreational areas and the Juneau Assembly would have to change an ordinance to accommodate snowmachine users, said Kirk Duncan, Eaglecrest general manager.
Snowmobile club President Ray Howard had submitted a proposal on behalf of the 80-plus-member group to the board to allow snowmobile parking and access through Eaglecrest via a trail to the Fish Creek Valley and the Mount Troy area, among other things.
He said he was not surprised the board did not accept the proposal.
"Based upon all the comments we have heard, ... it looked like there was pretty staunch opposition to the proposal," Howard said. "So no, I wasn't totally surprised."
It is difficult to say what the next move will be, but Howard said he does not anticipate bringing the issue before the Assembly. He said an "alpine working group" has formed to look at developing a multi-use recreational area that could include a section for snowmobiles.
"The snowmobile club is going to have to sit back and regroup," Howard said. "I am very encouraged though in the alpine working group. We're taking a look at a multi-use way that we can get a lot more traction looking for an area where maybe we can serve a whole lot more folks."
Howard said he hopes the community will support and provide input on a multi-use area and its potential location.
"We are looking for support for a multi-use perspective and getting up to the alpine and providing something everybody can be happy with," he said.
The skiers and snowboarders came out in force to protect the way the mountain is presently used, Calvin said.
"We learned a great deal about the passion that Eaglecrest users have about their area and how they want to preserve the experience that they have," he said. "So it's certainly been very educational in that respect for the board."
Duncan also provided the board with a manager's report at the meeting, which included the potential need to shut down the terrain park next season due to liability issues. A man was paralyzed at a similar park in Washington, leading to a lawsuit. That ski area was held partially liable for damages, he said.
He said the board will work on a decision on the terrain park over the summer and users will be informed prior to season passes going on sale.
"The only solace I have, is it's better that we have a ski area and a snowboard area than not have one because we had a major liability," Duncan said.
Also discussed at the meeting was the future of two new ski lifts waiting to be built at Eaglecrest. The state has earmarked $2.7 million in its budget to provide power to a Federal Aviation Administration tower on top of Eaglecrest, which will allow the ski resort to stop using diesel-generated power and convert to electricity, Duncan said.
The two new ski lifts purchased by Eaglecrest are electric powered and they had intended to switch them to use diesel-generated power, he said.
"It doesn't make much sense to convert them over to diesel if a year later we are going to convert them back to electric power," Duncan said.
That could delay when the chairlifts become fully operational, he said.
"At this point in time, I'd say that we stand a very good chance of having part of the ski lift put up this summer with the completion of both lifts next year," Duncan said.
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