Matanuska-Susitna Borough Resolution 10-029

April 21, 2010

Mayor Colberg and Assembly Members:

The purpose of this e-mail is to express the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition’s opposition to passage of Matanuska-Susitna Borough Resolution 10-029. The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) is a statewide nonprofit organization which seeks to protect the rights of Alaskans to quiet places. We believe natural sounds and natural quiet are resources of our public lands that deserve protection by land managers and we seek a fair, and balanced, allocation of our public lands for non-motorized and motorized recreational users.

We support the proposals in the Hatcher Pass Management Plan Public Review Draft (Plan) that designate all of the Government Peak and Mile 16 units closed to snowmachine access.  We would argue that to put a snowmachine corridor through these two units changes the unit from being closed to winter motorized use to being open to motorized use. The uses are incompatible and safety issues are created for the non-motorized recreationist. Snowmachiners do not stay within the corridor unless the terrain and adequate enforcement make it too difficult to leave. Furthermore, even if snowmachiners stay within a corridor, their noise will, in almost all cases, permeate the entire non-motorized area, thus defeating the very purpose for which the area was designated. We suggest that you review the public comments and public testimony that have been submitted in regard to Hatcher Pass. We believe you will find that the public overwhelming has found that motorized corridors do not work well at Hatcher Pass (except the one bounded by the road) and that snowmachines, in a non-motorized area, create substantial safety issues.

We further note the Plan recommends the closure of 990 acres along the Palmer-Fishhook  Road Corridor at the behest of the Borough “in an effort to preclude noise, potential traffic impact, and uses that may be incompatible with the development of (their ) ski facilities.” It would indeed be ironic for the same Borough to now resolve to place a motorized trail through the Government Peak area after having requested DNR to act to protect the area from such noise.

The Plan at page 3-44 discusses constructing  a parking lot with sanitation facilities near the northern terminus of Schrock to support both motorized and non-motorized uses in the southern part of the Hatcher Pass Management Area. Specifically it would “provide a southern access route into the western side for motorized recreationists” as well as alleviate some of the pressures on the Hatcher Pass Road facilities. This recommendation would accomplish what the resolution proposes, providing winter and summer motorized access without destroying areas designated for motorized closures.

It is our position that the resolution cannot accomplish what it attempts to do. We do not believe you can place a snowmachine corridor through non-motorized areas and claim that the units will be preserved substantially as non-motorized. The uses are incompatible and various measures to “alleviate” the adverse effects do not make the two uses compatible.

Finally, we wish to bring to your attention what we believe will be the consequences should this resolution pass. In our opinion, it would require:

A) an analysis under the EIS process currently underway.  This could require an amendment and, certainly, would require additional time and funding;

B) a substantial revision of the Plan for DNR to now include such a trail. This could not be considered a simple revision and would, we believe, require a new public process since it clearly changes the allocation of uses between the non-motorized and motorized users;

C) a reassessment of the overall and on-the-ground ski development planning efforts. The Borough has worked long and hard over many years to have this area developed with ski facilities to act as an economic engine for the Borough. You have previously been sent data showing the economic benefits to be gained from supporting quiet winter recreation versus motorized recreation. Such a corridor could change the configurations of facilities and, more importantly, change the economics on which the project  depends.

We find it hard to believe that the Assembly would jeopardize this project, at the eleventh hour, by adopting this resolution without first knowing in detail, and then consciously accepting, the adverse effects this corridor could present to its plans. We urge Assembly members to oppose Resolution 10-029.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Olsen, President

Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition

P.O. Box 202592

Anchorage, AK 99520