Boxed in at 'Quigleyville'

Lemon Creek growth squeezes homestead

Posted: Sunday, June 11, 2006

One of Juneau's most atypical neighborhoods lies just a short, bumpy drive from the industrial heart of Lemon Creek.

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Some call the private, leafy enclave "Quigleyville."

But for patriarch Patrick Quigley and his extended family, their 4.6-acre homestead - featuring three off-the-grid houses, a massive landscaped garden and whimsical stone sculptures - doesn't feel like much of a retreat anymore.

Despite their land's out-of-the-way character, it has become a puzzle piece caught up in a large-scale expansion of the Lemon Creek Valley.

The problem for everyone is space.

Flat land in Juneau equates to manufacturing jobs and commercial development, and over the decades Lemon Creek has been farmed, mined and logged. It has functioned as Juneau's "industrial valley," said Rory Watt, special projects engineer for the city.

To build Lemon Creek's new Home Depot store, some flat land will even have to be created where there currently is none, Watt said.

Thus, Home Depot plans to excavate a significant chunk from its land on Blackerby Ridge, just below the Quigleys' property line.

The Quigleys - whose land is now surrounded on two sides by flagging tape - aren't the only ones affected. The U.S. Forest Service's Lemon Creek Trail travels through Home Depot's soon-to-be-excavated ridge.

The silver lining: Home Depot has agreed to reroute the Lemon Creek Trail and convey some the company's land in the adjacent Vanderbilt Creek watershed to the city for both critical salmon habitat and a possible new industrial access road, said Home Depot's Juneau-based engineering contractor, Mike Story.

As Patrick Quigley sees it, the Vanderbilt Creek watershed - already federally listed as an impaired stream - needs extra protection for its coho salmon. A possible access road would destroy that, he said.

City officials agreed Friday routing the road through the watershed could be an environmental problem, but they said that they have only a few realistic alternatives.

To the north of the Quigley homestead, the city plans to open a new gravel pit and rock quarry. City planner Nathan Bishop said the city is a few years from making any final decisions about where it will cut a road to access the quarry and rock pit.

The problem for the Quigleys is the only way they can access their homes - a dirt road leading up through the woods - is also a desirable route for the city's industrial access to its mining sites.

The rock quarry will be carved out of Blackerby Ridge and the gravel pit will be farther to the north, potentially requiring a new bridge over Lemon Creek.

A city-funded study is underway to explore route alternatives, but in the meantime, the city has required Home Depot to build a section of rough-cut road bed behind its property that could serve as a link between the city's land to the north, and the Quigleys' residential road access to the south.

That makes Quigley worry that the industrial access road is a foregone conclusion. If it is built, the Quigleys and their grandchildren will have to share their residential route with dump trucks traveling to the quarry and gravel pit, he said.

"They do have a problem that they've got to solve," Quigley said, regarding the city's industrial plans. "We just had the good fortune to be in the middle of it," he said.

Others are less pessimistic about the Quigleys' future chances.

"Everybody seems to understand that (Vanderbilt Creek) is very valuable salmon habitat," Story said. "It's hard for me to envision the city ever building that road."

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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