HAINES - A private developer who wants to build a handicap-accessible, all-terrain vehicle trail across state land on Mount Ripinsky faces opposition from conservation groups.
Developer Dale Mulford, who has completed a fifth of his 5.5-mile trail from his property at 7 Mile Lutak Road to the mountain's summit, has drawn fire from opponents who say Mount Ripinsky should be reserved for hikers only. Mulford needs a state Department of Natural Resources permit to complete the trail.
"It would be a shame to keep Mount Ripinsky as a hiking-only area," Mulford told the Chilkat Valley News. "Especially since I'm using my own money to build it, and it wouldn't even interfere with the hiking trails on the front of the mountain."
Tourists would be taken up the mountain in quiet vehicles similar to golf carts at a top speed of 15 mph, Mulford said. The trail would not be available to private all-terrain vehicles, he said.
Many residents who enjoy hiking the mountain, however, say it should be reserved for its traditional, nonmotorized use.
Department of Natural Resources land planner Bruce Phelps said about 100 residents have written comments regarding Mulford's proposal, with nearly 95 percent supporting nonmotorized use.
Lynn Canal Conservation spokesman George Figdor said Southeast Alaska already has ample opportunities for older or disabled visitors to reach alpine areas, as well as several opportunities to gain access to wilderness via motorized vehicle.
"It's important to maintain some degree of quiet, and not eliminate the most primitive form of recreational activities," Figdor said. "There's value in promoting Haines as a quiet destination."
Hiking enthusiast Pam Randles hiked Mulford's trail last week and asked the developer not to take his trail above 500 feet on the 3,600-foot mountain.
"I thought we could work out a compromise to keep both sides happy," Mulford said, "but if the trail can only go that high, the plans may as well be scratched."
Mulford stressed the need to keep Ripinsky in a pristine condition, and said his plans will not affect traditional uses.
Mulford already has acquired a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to build bridges and culverts on the trail, and a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to construct rest rooms. He is awaiting permit approval from the Department of Natural Resources to complete the trail after it leaves his property.
Department of Natural Resources staff have developed a recommendation but are not ready to make it public, Phelps said.