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City, ATV group plan park

Proposal calls for 15-acre area of trails at Fish Creek Quarry

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2007

After years of trying to find an adequate place to ride, outdoor recreation vehicle enthusiasts may soon have a place to call their own.

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The city and a local ATV group are planning to apply for a conditional-use permit by the end of the month for a place at Fish Creek Quarry on Douglas Island. The area would be a 15-acre playground for all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles and snowmobiles.

The park, which the city hopes to open as early as fall or early spring, would be the first area on city property for off-road motorized use, Lands and Resources Manager Heather Marlow said.

"This was the most apparent and readily available riding area on public land," she said.

Under the agreement with the city, Rough Riders AK will be dealing with the bulk of construction and would also be in charge of management and enforcement of rules.

"It's going to be great," RRAK President James Tipps said. "The thing that will be nice is we will get a little bit of personal ownership."

The conditional-use permit must first be brought to the Juneau Planning Commission before it can be moved to the Juneau Assembly for action. Marlow said she anticipates the issue will be brought before the Planning Commission sometime this summer.

Finding a place to ride has been a longstanding issue for ATV enthusiasts, Tipps said. Presently there are only three areas available for the users: near the end of Montana Creek Road, an old logging road near Mile 25, and the tidelands at Echo Cove.

Echo Cove is the favored area to ride but has become congested and potentially dangerous, Tipps said. On a sunny weekend it's not uncommon to see more than 100 ATVs on the tidelands. Last weekend alone, Tipps said he counted more than 70 ATV users at Echo Cove.

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Such heavy use led to concerns of possible restrictions. That prompted formation of RRAK, which now has more than 100 members, he said. Having a place to call their own after years of searching will likely alleviate some of the contentiousness around ATVs, Tipps said.

"Is it going to solve the problems we have right now? No," he said. "Is it going to relieve some of it? Hopefully."

After years of being told where they can't ride, Tipps said he hopes the designated area on Douglas Island will help the ATV users act more responsibly.

"Right now people feel they have been missed in the public process so they don't ride as responsibly as they maybe should," he said.

Marlow said plans for the park began to develop when the city received a conditional-use permit for the quarry in 2001. The reclamation plan was to turn the area into an ATV park, she said.

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The city did not have the demand for rock that they anticipated, so it took longer than expected for the plan to move forward, she said.

"In the meantime we've seen pressure for a riding area and interest growing," Marlow said.

Although the park could open by spring, it would likely take longer to fully develop the area, Marlow said. A "youth only" area is part of the master plan, she said.

Once the city clears more area at the quarry, another five acres could be added into the park, making the total area 20 acres, Tipps said.

The tentative plan is for the area to be open year-round from 8 a.m. to midnight. The plan also calls for speed limits in certain areas, and helmets will be required for all riders.

The city's general liability insurance, according to the operation plan, would cover the area.

Snowmobiles will be allowed at the area, but the city is mainly catering to the ATV users, Marlow said.

"We'll see if there is interest in the area" for snowmobiles, she said. "I'm not sure if it is big enough to hold their interest for long."

After a recent decision by the Eaglecrest Board of Directors to keep the ski area nonmotorized, the city is still working on options for snowmobile enthusiasts, Marlow said. City, state and federal agencies will continue to look for long-term snowmobile solutions in Juneau, she said.

"This is one step at a time," Marlow said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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