Prospects for off-road vehicle park still fuzzy

(Photo by Michael Grosch/ Flickr Creative Commons)

The possibility of building a park in Juneau specifically for off-road vehicles is still fuzzy.

City Engineering Director Rorie Watt on Tuesday presented four possible sites to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. The two most appealing sites for both homeowners concerned about noise and ATV and motocross enthusiasts were out the road.

The two sites are next to each other near Echo Cove. The city owns one site at Mile 35. Goldbelt Inc. owns the other one. It’s a quarry that’s already popular with enthusiasts – who trespass.

Developing the city-owned site comes with a hefty price tag estimated at $3 to $12 million. That would be an extraordinary expense, Watt said.

“I don’t think in the ordinary city budgeting process, three to $12 million is at all likely. The funds are just not available easily for that scale of a project.”

The park at Mile 35 would also likely facilitate and exacerbate trespassing issues at Goldbelt’s quarry nearby, Watt said. And Goldbelt is already suffering from public safety and property issues spilling over from the city’s Echo Cove boat launch.

Watt said it’s unclear if the Native corporation is amenable to making a deal for public access to its land. If it were, the city estimates the cost of developing the site into an off-road vehicle park at less than $250,000.

After Watt’s presentation, the advisory committee heard public testimony on the park proposals. There were two camps: North Douglas residents in opposition to an off-road vehicle park specifically at the city’s Fish Creek quarry, and riding enthusiasts in support of any site.

“I think you guys need to keep in mind that we might seem like a small voice because everybody is very vocal about their trail walking, and their snowshoeing and their berry picking,” said Mendenhall Valley resident and rider Red Langel. “They have the opportunity to do that anywhere in Juneau. We don’t have the opportunity to do our stuff, really, legally, anywhere.”

Sixteen people testified in total. Seven were riding enthusiasts, nine voiced North Douglas noise concerns.

The advisory committee will take up the issue and hear public comment again at its Dec. 3 meeting.

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