Amber Laudert welcomes a proposal to open new areas to off-road vehicles in Juneau. With little snow cover in town, she traveled to Haines last winter to use her snowmachine. Her four-wheeler sits dormant except when used as a snowplow in her yard.
"If they open it up, I would ride (my four-wheeler) again. I used to love to go out and ride, but then they closed everything down," she said.
Since February, skiers, snowmachiners, all-terrain vehicle riders, hikers, bikers and representatives from the state, U.S. Forest Service and the city have been meeting to update Juneau's off-road vehicle plan. About 50 people attended a public meeting Thursday to look at the group's recommendations.
Juneau Area Offroad Vehicle (ORV) Planning website.
The committee picked 10 spots that would be off-limits to off-road vehicles and nine spots where motorized use would be allowed. Members couldn't reach a consensus on 12 other areas.
"We did agree on some things but that doesn't mean it's a foregone conclusion. We'll meet after the community meeting to see if minds change at that point," said committee member and Juneau District Ranger Pete Griffin.
The work highlights interest and concern about the issue in the community. Heather Bingaman, a hiker and mother, is worried about safety along the Dan Moller Trail above West Juneau. It's just a matter of time before an accident happens, she said.
"Motorized use is incompatible with nonmotorized use on the trail. It's a loved trail by the community. It poses an unacceptable risk to all users," she said.
The panel recommended no motorized use on Treadwell Ditch from Dan Moller to the Eaglecrest Ski Area and wasn't able to reach consensus about motorized use on the Kowee Creek drainage of the Dan Moller Trail.
Brad Davis, president of the Juneau Snowmobile Club and a member of the planning committee, said snowmachiners take safety seriously and are careful to give other users room.
The plan is a step in the right direction, but not all of the areas recommended for motorized access are perfect, he said. For example, the Bessie Creek Trail at Mile 34 Glacier Highway will need two to three years of work before it will be a "halfway decent" trail for snowmachiners, Davis said.
Four-wheel owner Craig Orsborn has been attending meetings about off-road vehicle use in the Juneau for five years and said he has noticed a strong division of opinions about the issue.
"We used to have 50 people from the (off-road vehicle) club, but people just stopped showing up," he said.
A proposal to open an old clearcut behind the Lemon Creek Correctional Center to all-terrain vehicle use has excellent potential, Orsborn said.
Hiker and skier Marinke Van Gelder said she would prefer that motorized use not be allowed anywhere, but said she is particularly concerned about a proposal to open a new road to Spaulding Meadows, above the Auke Bay area.
"The beauty is that there's no road there. It's a little more remote. It won't be if you can drive to it," she said.
Trail bike rider and committee member Jonathan Anderson said he's been impressed by the panel's work, especially as a way to give agencies feedback before any decisions are made.
"The committee wants to hear from anybody who is interested," he said.
When complete, the recommendations will go to the city, Forest Service and the state. Any proposed changes on Forest Service land would become part of an environmental impact statement that would be open to comment and appeal, Griffin said.
The recommendations are available from the Juneau Ranger District office and by accessing a link to the planning Web site at http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/planning/junoorv/. Written comments are due Sept. 4.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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