Dear Ms. Rein:
I am writing on behalf of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) in response to your request for scoping comments on the proposed Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT) between Seward and Girdwood.
The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition is a statewide non-profit organization that seeks to promote a fair share of quiet recreational opportunities on public lands. AQRC also represents many Alaskans who appreciate peace and quiet in their homes and cabins. We also speak out for quiet habitats for wildlife. AQRC believes that natural quiet is a natural resource which is to be cherished and protected by land managers.
AQRC fully supports the concept of this significant historic trail and congratulates the Forest Service for their efforts to incorporate and accommodate the various Â recreational uses of the trail.
We appreciate the complexity of attempting to create a continuous trail through multiple jurisdictions and land management regimes. In regard to recreational management of the trail, we particularly commend the efforts of the Â Forest Service to create sections of trail which separate the motorized and non-motorized user. We would hope,insofar as possible, that the trail separations include topographical features which would in fact provide the non-motorized recreationist with a quiet experience.
Our calculations show that for the Main Route of approximately 128 miles, Â snowmachines will be formally prohibited on approximately 60 Â miles. Roughly 34 miles of the 60 miles of snowmachine-free trails parallel snowmachine trails or the highway or both (including almost half of the 18.6 miles up Twentymile Valley and over to Winner Creek) Â We are disappointed that the proposed trail does not include more quiet opportunities.
It is our experience that multiuse trails managed for both skiers and snowmachines do not work for the skier. Between the dangers posed by speeding snowmachines, their noise, their impact on winter beauty, and the speed bumps, the end result is that the skier is displaced from the trail. We would urge the Forest Service to post and enforce speed limits, and rules of the road,on such multiuse trails to attempt to prevent that displacement. Further we believe that only trail Â separation offers a reasonable chance that the motorized user will honor a formal prohibition against motors. Moreover, unless there is active enforcement, we believe trail sections being managed for sking, but without a formal prohibition against motorized uses, will be over-run with snowmachines. It is for these reasons that , at best, we consider only separated trails, with a formal prohibition, as being available for the nonmotorized winter user.
Specific comments concerning the proposed trail are as follows:
a) In the Kenai Lakes Area,
1) it is possible to build the bridges narrow enough in the KL 5 section to make impassible for snowmachines ?
2) We urge that the trail proposals across and around the Snow River fully support, and protect, the proposed hut to hut development from motorized incursions.
b) In the Johnson-Turnagain Pass Area, can the JP 4 and JP 3 sections be separated by suitable topography so that the skier will have a quiet experience?
c) In the Turnagain Arm/Portage Valley Area,we question why the P 2 section is motorized when located between two non-motorized sections. By doing Â so, you prevent the skier from having a continuous non-motorized experience and, secondly, we believe you create a nearly impossible enforcement situation in attempting to limit the snowmachiner to the 4.5 miles motorized stretch.
d) In the South End Area, the SE 3 segment is already considered dangerous by skiers so a parallel non-motorized route is needed.
e) In the Trail Lakes Area, no separate non-motorized winter trail is shown. This gives those who live in Moose Pass no safe and quiet winter recreation opportunity on the proposed route.
As an overall scoping comment, we are concerned about the creation of multiple, long distance snowmachine trails. Long distance snowmachine trails open every valley, home, cabin, or favorite ski and snowshoe place along the route to unwanted noise and possible intrusion. Our review appears to indicate that the proposed INHT, combined with Â the existing and proposed sections of the DOT Bike Path, creates a continuous snowmachine trail from Seward to Girdwood. We are not clear as to whether DOT policies permit motorized uses of the Bike Path in Â winter. However, if permitted, a second snowmachine trail between Seward and Girdwood would then exist. If that is the possible end result, which we believe would have major effects on wildlife and totally displace the non-motorized recreationist, we urge the Forest Service to act now to reserve the right to change uses in the future and cause the INHT to be created as a continuous non-motorized trail between Seward and Girdwood. After all, the historic trail was not a motorized trail.
AQRC further requests that the Forest Service on-going analysis and planning include cumulative noise effects, enforcement plans and definitive information concerning DOT (or other jurisdiction) management policies regarding motorized use on Bike Paths.
Thank you for this opportunity to offer scoping comments on the INHT.