A land deal in the works could get a valued piece of Douglas Island out of the hands of a private property owner and into the public's.
The property at Hilda Cove was subdivided last year into 10 lots the owner said he intended to sell for individual residences accessible only by boat.
The deal being worked by Southeast Alaska Land Trust for the city would preserve 36 acres located at the halfway point on the west side of Douglas Island.
The property's value is in its two salmon spawning streams, Hilda Creek especially, and its recreational opportunities. Hilda Cove is the most sheltered anchorage on the west side of the island and is a popular spot with kayakers, hikers, hunters, trappers and fishermen, a state Department of Fish and Game biologist wrote last year when the property was subdivided.
The property falls under the West Douglas Conceptual Plan, the city's long-term development plan for the area. The plan calls for an extension of North Glacier Highway and other development on the west side of the island. The land would be managed as a natural area and a park similar to the Auke Village Recreation Area, ensuring recreational opportunities amidst other development likely to happen in future decades, city Lands Manager Heather Marlow said.
The property was part of the Tongass National Forest until 1923, when John F. McDonald homesteaded it. It is bordered by Goldbelt Corp. and U.S. Forest Service land and is near a large city-owned parcel.
An agreement the city and Goldbelt signed in 1999 leaves open the possibility of a trade that would connect the city's two parcels surrounding Hilda Creek. In exchange, the Native corporation would acquire property farther northwest along the island that it wants to develop into a port facility, among other things.
The agreement remains active but large development pieces need to fall into place before parties are likely to act on it, Marlow said, including a North Douglas crossing and extending the road around the island.
The current deal is the land trust's first of several to be paid for with $6 million that Juneau International Airport is paying in wetlands mitigation for airport projects.
Marlow said the city looks forward to future opportunities to acquire wetland and park land with the money.
Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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