August 16, 2013
Ben Ellis, Director
Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1380
Anchorage, AK 99501-3561
Dear Director Ellis:
As you are aware, the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) has, over the years, reviewed and commented on various DPOR plans and issues. We believe that natural sounds and natural quiet are resources of public lands, including those under DPOR’s management, which deserve protection. Accordingly, our concerns have mostly dealt with issues of motorized recreation, the adverse effects on the quiet recreational experience and the lack of comparable opportunities for non-motorized recreation. For example, our recent letter to you expressed AQRC’s concerns that without a trails plan in place for Denali State Park there is no way for DPOR to create opportunities for non-motorized recreation. Our fear is that the current construction activities currently underway in Phase I of the South Denali project will, upon completion, lead to more snowmachining activity which, once established, will preclude DPOR from being able to attempt any efforts at management or even develop a trails plan that fairly considers opportunities for non-motorized recreation.
We have recently been advised of two issues affecting the Kachemak Bay State and Wilderness Parks: current float plane landings on lakes closed to such landings by 11 AAC 20.110 and the possibility of a permit being awarded to permit jet ski travel, prohibited by 11 AAC 20.115 (b) and 11 AAC 20. 215(b).
Our information is that Steller Air lands on Grewingk Lake to drop off hikers and on Wosnesenski Lake to drop off rafters. Their website describes these services. Additionally we understand that it is such common practice for float planes to routinely land on Grewingk Lake that “locals” assume it is open to such landings. As a commercial operation pursuant to 11 AAC 12.300 and an activity subject to 11 AAC 18.010 (a)(8) and (a)(10) and in violation of the regulations at 11 AAC 20.110, these landings can only be allowed if the director has issued a special park use permit pursuant to 11 AAC 18.025. Please advise if such permits have been issued and, if not, what enforcement efforts are being used to ensure compliance with the regulations. Due to the increasing demands for changes in the management of these two parks, e.g., heli-skiing, we recommend there be no changes to the regulations or issuance of permits until revised management plans are completed so that all demands on the resource, and their cumulative effects, can be comprehensively evaluated and appropriate management decisions made.
We have a number of questions concerning the possible granting of a special park use permit to allow participants in The Alaska Wet Dog race (1000 jet skiers) to traverse Nuka Passage, closed to such activity pursuant to 11 AAC 20.115 and 11 AAC 20.215. Such activity would fall into a number of the categories set forth at 11 AAC 18.010 which establish when a permit is required. We note that the “Issue Response Summary with DNR Response”, a part of the amended Memorandum of Decision issued by DML & W for the Land Use Permit awarded The Alaskan Wet Dog Race, raises the possibility that a permit could be granted by DPOR. Further, we understand that the District Ranger has suggested that he may issue such a permit. We simply do not believe that the necessary criteria for awarding such a permit, as set forth at 11 AAC 18.025(c) can be met. Specifically we question whether a determination can be made that this race going through Nuka Passage can satisfy these criteria: (c)(1)”park…natural…resources will not be adversely affected; (2) the state park is protected from pollution; (3) public use values…will be maintained and protected; (4) the public safety…and welfare will not be adversely affected…” Accordingly, if a permit has been granted by DPOR, please provide a copy and the required contemporaneous findings.
We further note that Nuka Passage is bounded by the Wilderness Park on one side and KBSP wilderness zones on both sides. AQRC does not believe that jet skis or their noise is compatible with such designations. We assume the regulations prohibiting jet skis were adopted specifically to protect both the statutory purposes for which KBSWP was established as well as KBSP management plan’s wilderness zone designation. Granting a special park use permit for jet skis to traverse this area would significantly undercut the plan, substantially violate the underlying values, and purposes, of these statutory and administrative designations and should not be considered.
Assuming that a permit has not been issued, we would hope that if and when a permit is requested that DPOR would take the long view and recognize that though the race may be modest in scope during its initial years that is not the long-term prospect. Mr. Lang has made his intention clear that he wants this race to become famous as the toughest, roughest endurance race in the world, able to attract world class professional racers and the financial support of the industry. DPOR granting a permit once means that it would have few if any grounds to refuse a permit in future years.
We would appreciate your response to these concerns.
Brian Okonek, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
PO Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520
cc: Jack Blackwell, Superintendent