Montana Creek ATV riding request meets resistance

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A proposal to use Montana Creek for ATV riding has bumped up against resistance from state agencies before the request got anywhere near a public forum.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The state Department of Natural Resources told Rough Riders, the local ATV club, in an e-mail that the kind of four-wheeler activity occurring in Montana Creek is not allowed.

Rough Riders President James Tipps submitted an application in April to the state Department of Fish and Game for a permit to cross Montana Creek while riding existing trails in the drainage. He applied to Fish and Game because a permit is required from that department to cross streams where fish spawn, since crossings can kill fish when eggs are present.

Rough Riders proposed building bridges as an alternative to driving through the streambed.

DNR, which owns the land, stepped in and said current riding on secondary trails throughout the area - not just through the creek - is causing too much damage to be considered general use under state guidelines.

"If they can four-wheel without tearing up and disturbing the ground they can do it," Division of Mining, Land and Water Regional Manager David Kelley said. But a recent site visit showed damage from repeated use. "We found trails that have been heavily used and it's not the fault of one four-wheeler but the result of cumulative impacts of repeated use."

Kelley said the group could apply for a permit from DNR to harden trails and establish a managed riding area. An application of that nature would be subject to a public process.

The group also would need a conditional use permit from the city to create a riding park in Montana Creek, and that process also requires public input.

Fish and Game would deny the creek crossings for now since Rough Riders does not have permission to ride there in the first place, Habitat Area Manager Jackie Timothy said.

ATVs have struggled to find a place to ride in Juneau, most recently facing public outcry over a proposal to build a riding park in North Douglas.

Tipps did not respond to requests for an interview for this story. In an e-mail response to the state, he indicated the group was not likely to submit additional applications without any indication of its success.

"We just do not see spending money, and time, on permit applications that can be easily denied, as a safe use of what limited club funds we have available," he wrote.

An application to create a riding park in Montana Creek would face strong resistance from Trout Unlimited.

Montana Creek provides the best urban fishing in Juneau and is a sensitive habitat for fish rearing and other wildlife, Juneau chapter President Chris Zimmer said.

"It is simply the wrong place to ride ATVs, and exactly the wrong place to put an ATV park in," he said.

Zimmer said motorized use in Montana Creek already conflicts with fishing, hiking, bird watching and hunting in the drainage.

"There's a reason they've been run out of (other areas)," he said. "The continued disregard for existing users and illegal use is not building many friends here."

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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