The summer tourist season is still six months away, but the battle over the commercial use of local trails already has begun.
Gastineau Guiding Co. wants to take people around the Treadwell Mine ruins and more than double its number of weekend tours on the Outer Point Trail.
Juneau first allowed conditional use permits for commercial tours on city trails in 1995. Four tour companies were given permits for commercial operations on city-owned parkland last year Alaska Sightseeing and Gastineau Guiding at Outer Point, Gastineau Guiding at Perseverance Trail, Alaska Paddle Sports at Auke Lake and other locations, and Auk Ta Shaa for kayak trips out of Amalga Harbor.
Gastineau Guiding's Outer Point Trail tour, on North Douglas, lasts about three hours. Last year, the company was permitted 18 trips with up to 12 customers each on Saturdays and 43 trips on Sunday.
Gastineau Guiding is requesting an increase to 27 Saturday trips and 112 Sunday trips for the 2001 season.
It isn't as bad as it sounds, said co-owner Dawn Wolfe. The company is just trying to keep the same number of customers as in 2000, but the cruise ships with better sales records have shifted their schedules more toward the weekends for 2001, she said.
Gastineau Guiding also is requesting permits for taking about 1,200 people on 2.5-hour guided tours of the Treadwell Mine Historic Trail during the May-through-September tourist season. The trail meanders through mining ruins near Sandy Beach in Douglas.
The company is requesting trail use from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. No tour times are mentioned in the application.
Judging from the roughly 40 public comments received by Parks and Recreation on its applications, Gastineau Guiding faces an uphill battle for more trail time. Most of the comments address only the Outer Point Trail, and the vast majority were against expanded commercial use.
"There should be zero increase of trips on weekends. This is the time the local people have to use the trails," wrote Del Carnes as part of the public comment on the trail permits.
Several comments were concerned with the commercial use of the Treadwell Mine Trail, saying it runs near homes and lacks sufficient parking on weekends.
The city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Juneau Assembly chambers. Gastineau Guiding will present its case and more public comment will be taken.
The committee's opinion is not final, but is a recommendation to the assembly for final action.