Twenty Juneau hikers, skiers, berry-pickers and outdoor lovers commenting Thursday on a proposal for all-terrain vehicle summer tours in the Eaglecrest Ski Area spoke overwhelmingly against motorized tours.
Many, however, said they weren't against other kinds of tours in the area.
About 30 people attended an Eaglecrest Board of Directors Finance Committee meeting Thursday night to question and comment on a proposal from Haines resident and Northland Excursions owner Adam Patterson to operate summer ATV tours on the ski area's new service road.
Patterson proposed up to five daily summer tours each consisting of 11 two-person vehicles. The vehicles' maximum speed would be 15 miles an hour with a maximum noise level of 89 decibels.
The ATVs would take about 10 to 15 minutes to go up the mountain and 10 to 15 minutes to go down, with a one-hour hike in between. They would not be allowed to go off-road.
Eaglecrest would receive 5 percent of the $115 per person fee, which Eaglecrest Ski Area Manager Kirk Duncan estimated would easily mean $35,000 in annual revenue for Eaglecrest.
That's about 5 percent of the money Eaglecrest receives from the city, which covers about 30 percent of the ski area's total operating budget, said Duncan.
Board members said they are "under the gun" to make Eaglecrest as financially independent as possible.
"The Assembly has made it very clear they want to see additional revenue from Eaglecrest, specifically in the summer," said Duncan.
Members of the public, however, cited concerns about noise, pollution, erosion, a potential lack of trail management, safety for hikers, grant money the area has received to go "green," a failed 2007 proposal for snowmobile tours in the area, the precedent ATV tours could set and the general atmosphere of the area.
"Eaglecrest is one of the few areas we have that's non-motorized," said Dale Carnes. "Everywhere else, there's industrial tourism noise ... I realize we're always looking for revenue, but I think we need to find some other sources besides motorized tourism."
"This is probably the last place we can go where it's quiet and there are no hordes," said Sandy Warner. "A lot of us have been driven off other trails."
One man said the tours could be a good thing for elderly Juneau residents who can no longer hike as well. "There are a lot of people in our community that would get a lot of enjoyment from taking that ride. If it were properly managed, I think it should be given a chance," he said.
After hearing comment, Patterson said he would definitely consider electric-powered tours. In his proposal, Patterson said the tours could be helpful with trail maintenance, watching for areas in need of help, and would use relatively low emission 4-stroke ATVs.
Duncan said he has the authority to issue the permit himself, but wanted to give the public an opportunity to comment.
Public comment can be submitted for the next week at www.juneau.org/ecrestftp/question.php.
The board will likely make a decision on the proposal at its next regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in room 224 of City Hall.
Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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