Nancy Lake SRA Comments on Proposed Recommendations and Alternatives

August 22 , 2012
Resource Assessment and Development Section
Department of Natural Resources
550 W 7th Ave., Suite 1050
Anchorage, AK 99501

To whom it may concern:

The purpose of this letter is to offer the comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) on the proposed management recommendations and alternatives offered for  Nancy Lake State Recreation Area (NLSRA) issues. Our comments are limited to the alternatives and recommendations dealing with the access issues; we have no comments on the boat storage and dock issues. AQRC has previously provided scoping comments as part of this planning effort.

AQRC is a state-wide non-profit organization dedicated to protecting natural sounds and natural quiet on our public lands for the benefit of non-motorized recreationists, cabin and business owners and wildlife. We advocate for a fair and balanced allocation of trails and areas for non-motorized recreational opportunities on public lands.

From our perspective, it appears that DPOR, through its actions in liberally issuing special permits and allowing private citizens to develop an ATV trail on public land, has created (or at least greatly contributed to) the very resource-damage problems this planning effort is meant to address.  Moreover, these management lapses have not been in conformity with the regulations or the 1986 Plan.  We support DPOR’s efforts to resolve these issues, and encourage the Division not to accede to the voices and political pressures urging DPOR to continue to violate its regulations and the 1986 Plan, by allowing continued ATV access to private inholdings, both within and outside the NLSRA boundaries.

We support Alternative 1 on the grounds that it is the only alternative which gives DPOR management control of the identified summer access issues. This support is premised on the assumption that the gate is not locked and the public is welcome to drive a car on Lynx Road. This opening partially satisfies the fundamental concern that an area set aside for “public recreation” must be managed in the public interest; not managed solely for the interests of the private inholdings.  In fact, we believe that public access is required if DPOR intends to start investing public funds in this area, as proposed.

We fully support the proposed prohibition against ATVs throughout NLSRA in order to protect the resource itself, which has been damaged by ATV use. This prohibition is equally important in order to protect the values set forth in the 1983 Plan and reaffirmed in the recent DPOR survey data.  Both the owners of the private inholdings and the public recreationists at large value the setting NLSRA provides for a variety of recreational activities in a quiet, natural and remote location. Furthermore, we support the provision in Alternative 1 that only minimal maintenance of the Lynx Lake Road is planned, because this in turn will reduce the number of drivers on the road and again will help maintain the natural values. We support the plan to improve, and where necessary, re-route, the Butterfly Trail to a Class 3 terra trail in order to protect the wetlands and surface resources. While horse and bicycle uses are appropriate on a non-motorized trail, we do urge that DPOR develop standards, similar to those developed to determine when snowmachines are authorized on public lands, to determine when those two uses could be authorized seasonally so that they do not damage the trail.

We do not think DPOR ever had, or currently has, any legal responsibility to allow access through NLSRA to owners of private property located outside the boundaries of NLSRA.  There is no such language in the authorizing legislation establishing this SRA and no implication has been made in the information available on the website that such a promise was ever made to these land owners. Your research has shown that neither applicable land use plans nor the plats for the subdivisions in which these lots were located contemplated or authorized access through NLSRA for private purposes.  In fact, access was specified via plane, snowmachine or a road that has never been built.

By issuing access permits, and allowing ATV traffic and the storage of barges, DPOR has given an unauthorized gift  to these landowners over the years: a no-cost, convenient way to access their properties, to the detriment of a legislated public special-use area. Only Alternative 1 appears to partially curtail this access by disallowing long term storage of personal property and moorage of boats on certain lakes. We strongly oppose the provisions in Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 which continue to accommodate these landowners’ convenient access to their properties through NLSRA, because the proposed improvements mean that public funds would be largely spent for private benefit. As you are aware, private persons may not gain prescriptive easement rights on public lands. We request that a legal opinion be obtained from the Attorney General’s Office that analyzes the legal requirement for management of NLSRA in conformity with exiting law and regulations, and the questionable status of private landowners who insist on a right to continue to gain access to their properties through this special-purpose site.

The quiet, natural setting of NLSRA will become increasingly valuable over the years as  increased populations in the Mat-Su Borough and Anchorage seek non-developed, quiet natural places to recreate. We believe the provisions included in Alternative 1 offer the best hope for preserving the values of this public recreation land. Authorizing ATV use within NLSRA, as proposed in the other three alternatives, would mean that the values of this land, deemed special enough to be set aside from general use under Consititutional authority, would be sacrificed for the private benefit and personal convenience of a few individuals.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

Sincerely yours,

Susan Olsen, President
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
PO Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520