Residents and recreationalists turn out for public meeting on Auke Lake

A group of carnations sets against the Auke Lake Trail sign.

A group of carnations sets against the Auke Lake Trail sign. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

“This is Auke Lake. Auke means small.”

Mary Lou and Charles Gerbi live along the lake shore.They were in the small audience at Thursday night’s meeting on Auke Lake management.

Mary Lou Gerbi submitted a letter to Parks and Recreation officials, reminding them that Auke is a Tlingit word for small.

The 160-acre lake is only nine-tenths of a mile long and four-tenths of a mile wide.  It takes less than a minute to jet ski across the lake at full throttle.

The Gerbi’s are part of the group of residents and boaters involved in the controversy a few years ago that led to current management of the lake.

John Blasco was also part of that group.  He’s been jet skiing there for a decade.

“And the reason why I think we should stay on the Auke Lake is it’s the only fresh body of water we can use. The salt water brings extra risk in my mind,” Blasco says.

Blasco believes some lake area residents want to use last summer’s deadly accident on the lake to end jet skis use.

A 16-year-old Juneau girl died from her injuries when her inner tube collided with a jet ski.  She was being towed by another jet ski.  The police investigation did not result in any charges against a driver, but the city promised to revisit management issues. Auke Lake is owned by the state of Alaska and managed by the city and borough of Juneau.

Blasco was among four at last night’s meeting who said “don’t close the lake.”  He also testified last week at a meeting on the UAS campus that had little public notice, though stake holders were informed.

“I like what’s out there for restrictions.  I just think we need to make sure that their regulated,” Blasco says.

Gerbi also spoke at the first meeting, but last night she declined, instead, submitting her letter to the record.  Gerbi writes that it’s not about closing the lake: “it’s about making it safe for the most users, not just the few powerful ones who can afford such ‘bully’ equipment,” as a jet ski, or personal watercraft.  After the meeting, she briefly talked on tape:

“I think you have to think of riding your mountain bike at the Indy 500. It would be suicidal. And that’s what it’s like if you swim or kayak or canoe, or paddle board on the lake when the jet skis are out there, Gerbi says.

CBJ Parks and Recreation staff will be considering the public comments and letters as they review current regulations, which establish no wake zones and restrict motorized craft in certain buffer areas near shore and a bridge.

A CBJ Parks and Rec life ring hangs on the floating dock at Auke Lake.

A CBJ Parks and Rec life ring hangs on the floating dock at Auke Lake. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Landscape Superintendent George Schaaf says staff also want ideas of how to improve management.

Schaaf says the state Department of Transportation and CBJ are developing a new wayside park near the boat launch, which is likely to bring even more people to the lake.

“Basically it’s going to include permanent bathrooms instead of the portapotties, picnic shelter and a few trail features, and of course a parking area for the trail and for the wayside,” Schaaf says.

He says the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee plans to take up issue at meetings on Nov. 28, Dec. 6 and Dec. 11, which will be the last day for public comments.

Any recommendations for management changes will have to be approved by the CBJ Assembly.

Letters and comments can be submitted to George_Schaaf@ci.juneau.ak.us, or Auke Lake Management, 155 S. Seward St., Juneau, AK 99801.

Ordinance on motorized uses on Auke Lake

Amended Ordinance on motorized uses on Auke Lake – Map of permitted wake area