June 29, 2015
Mat-Su Area Park Superintendent
7278 East Bogard Road
Wasilla, AK 99654
Dear Superintendent Biessel:
The purpose of this letter from the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) is to offer comments on the proposed project to repair the Butterfly Lake Trail. In earlier comments, AQRC has criticized the state’s issuance of permits for ATVS on this trail, objected to the recommendation in the Public Review Draft to allow ATV traffic in this natural setting for up to five years while the issue is studied and, in general, has been critical of allowing ATV travel in areas set aside for their recreational and natural values.
As an organization we believe that the natural resources of our public lands, such as natural sounds and natural quiet, need protection similar to that given clean air and clean water, that opportunities for non-motorized recreation must be provided in areas and on trails separate from motorized activities and that the allocation between user groups must be fair. AQRC also believes that existing property owners who believed they were buying into a quiet, non-motorized area are entitled to the benefit of their bargain in contrast to those property owners whose legal access does not include access by ATV.
Based on a recent discussion with you, it is our understanding that the following facts apply to the proposed project: the Butterfly Lake Trail needs repair due to damage caused by ATV traffic; no permits for ATV travel have been issued; a revised management plan has not been approved so no decision has yet been made as to whether ATVs will be allowed on this trail; the volunteers who will do the repair work will be required to repair it to state standards for a sustainable ATV trail, even in the absence of a final decision authorizing ATVs on the trail; no state funds will be involved except for minimal costs associated with an occasional inspection by a park employee; and the volunteers who have submitted the application for a special use permit will provide all materials, equipment and manpower for the job.
We believe issuing a permit for this repair work to the standard proposed and prior to approval of the final plan will create great public confusion, heighten expectations for unlimited ATV use and promote a sense of ownership by the motorized community, particularly if the trail work is completed prior to the final plan being approved or put into effect. In short, we reiterate the position AQRC took almost two years ago in commenting on the Public Review Draft: “AQRC objects to the recommendation to redevelop the Butterfly Lake Trail as a Class 2 terra trail designed for ORV use. (First,) until the issue of awarding Special Use Permits is settled, no action can, or should be taken on this recommendation.” While we support any and all efforts to have DPOR facilities and infrastructure maintained and repaired, we believe approving this project before the plan is approved just invites conflict, confusion and a sense that certain groups have an inside track with DPOR. Finally, we would point out that since the trail has been in poor shape for a number of years and ATVs are not permitted to be on the trail to cause additional damage, what harm occurs if there is further delay before repairs are made ?
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.
Brian Okonek, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520