Ben Ellis, Director August 5, 2016
Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation
Dear Mr. Ellis:
The purpose of this email is to offer the comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) on the draft of Alaska’s 2016-2021 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
AQRC is a statewide, non-profit organization which believes natural sounds and natural quiet are resources of our public lands which deserve the same types of protection as other natural resources such as clean air and clean water. Our mission is to maintain and restore natural sounds and natural quiet through advocacy and education for the benefit of people and wildlife. We believe outdoor recreationists on our public lands are entitled to experience these lands without the sounds of motorized recreation. To that end we seek to work with land managers engaged in land use planning and permitting to provide a fair and equitable share of separate trails and areas for the non-motorized user of our public lands.
It is unfortunate that there was not a wider participation in your two surveys, to outdoor recreation professionals and to Alaska’s youth, in order to establish the state’s priorities for the next five years. However, despite the low response there appears to be a close consistency in what the three regions consider to be the important management and facility needs: maintenance of existing facilities; trail improvements and restrooms, along with increasing the number of ADA-compliant trails and facilities. AQRC is aware that a huge backlog of deferred maintenance exists and that the amount of funding available over the next five years from the Land and Water Conservation Fund is inadequate to fully meet those costs. That being the case, we believe the lack of a more definitive survey response is not a problem.
We note that respondents from the rural part of the state identified user conflict as the third most important barrier to increasing participation in outdoor recreation. AQRC fully supports the solution proposed: to provide separate trail and spaces and agrees that such action would also improve safety.
AQRC fully supports the three goals proposed: increase participation in outdoor recreation; maintain sustainable outdoor recreational infrastructure and ensure future funding for outdoor recreation and their accompanying strategies. However, we believe the strategy to implement the third goal (future funding) needs to expand beyond just educating State Legislators on the economic benefits of funding outdoor recreation. There is nothing in this draft document that mentions or considers the effect, both positive and negative, summer tourism usage has on the maintenance issues affecting these public facilities. We suggest that tourism could be source of sustainable funding and that a strategy should be developed to fully explore whether and how tourism could be a potential funding source; not just, as we assume, a drain on DPOR resources.
We fully support the idea that it is important to engage youth in outdoor recreation now to ensure support for such activities and facilities in the future. While we agree that the survey cannot be relied upon as an accurate representation of Alaska’s youth needs and desires, we do think some worrying trends were indicated. Specifically we note that the youth said they spend about the right amount of time outdoors and were “too busy” to spend more time outdoors and that the second and third top winter activities were “indoor exercise” and “indoor sports”. We suggest that one step that DPOR could do to help insure the continued participation of youth in outdoor recreation would be to sponsor more activities in the parks which focus on their interests.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.
Brian Okonek, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
PO Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520