Homebodies, outdoor enthusiasts and Juneau residents somewhere in between are all tasked with deciding what the future of some of Juneau’s trails and parks will look like.
Among the four propositions included on this year’s municipal ballot, residents have been asked whether the city should issue $6.6 million in general obligation bond debt to go toward the funding of construction and equipment costs for park improvements at city-located parks.
The $6.6 million will go to a variety of different parks and trail improvement projects across Juneau, one of the major improvements being at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, where the city would replace its eight-lane track and also install artificial turf at the ballfield, as outlined in the 2022 voter information packet.
The funds will also pay for trail maintenance and repairs throughout Juneau, particularly at Perseverance Trail where slope stabilization, bridge replacement and emergency service access improvements are some of the slated repairs outlined. The bonds would also go toward building a new public use cabin, explained to be similar to the Amalga public use cabin.
If passed by voters, the bonds would raise the annual property tax levy by $10.79 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, according to CBJ meaning the median-valued home in Juneau — estimated by Zillow to be around $475,000 as of August 2022 — would be paying about $50 additionally per year for the next 15 years until the bonds mature.
Bruce Scandling, a Juneau resident, wrote a letter to the editor to the Empire in support of the proposition and asked other residents to vote yes along with him.
He wrote that years ago when he was a coach for youth baseball there was the need for all-weather turf for baseball and softball and said Proposition 2 would allow Juneau to “finally catch up to the rest of Alaska” and mean “better overall safety.”
“I believe trails, cabins and youth sports can be a win for everybody,” he wrote.
Greg Smith, an Assembly member, said he will be voting yes for this proposition and said he advocates for voters in Juneau to do the same.
Smith said he and Mayor Weldon undertook the task of asking local advocates what improvement they would like to see to Juneau’s parks and trails, which he said is all outlined in the proposition. He said the goal of this proposition was to make “a small but reasonable” package that benefits different groups in the community and doesn’t put too much weight on taxes.
“It does have an impact on property tax, it’s very small but it does affect our taxes in a small way,” he said. “I think as the Assembly we know it’s important to keep the cost of living down in Juneau but at the same time, I think Juneau has a strong future with recreation and will benefit the community.”
Smith said originally there was consideration to put the bond’s projects into the 1% sales tax budget, but after discussion with the advocates, he said the decision was made to make it its own proposition.
“By moving it into a bond, it allowed us to put some other community priorities in the 1% proposal,” he said.
He said some of the reasons why the project package is advanced as a bond proposition rather than a part of the 1% sales tax budget was because there’s “only so much to spend” in the 1% tax budget, which could mean some of the projects in the budget could be lowered in priority and possibly not get enough funding necessary to complete.The “temporary” 1% sales tax is a separate proposition that will also appear on ballots.
Smith said by approving these trail and park maintenance projects as its own proposition, ensures there will be funding available for the projects if passed by voters. He said he thinks the project will help economic development and attract more people to visit Juneau and said the benefits are spread out across different communities in Juneau.
“We’re taking it to the voters and people have a chance to look at the numbers and the impacts and weigh the cost and benefits,” he said. “The voters will get the yay or nay, so I think this is a neat way to do it.”
Lexie Razor, head coach of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé softball team and spokeswoman for Juneau Families for Youth Recreation, and Mark Pusich, board president of Trail Mix Inc, co-wrote an opinion piece sent to the Empire that urged voters to OK the proposition for its benefit to the community as a whole.
“We believe recreation, sports and healthy outdoor activities are fundamental building blocks of a strong community,” they wrote. “A yes vote supports more healthy outdoor activities for all of us, especially kids and families. It is an investment in our quality of life and our future. It is a vote to strengthen our community.
There was no written opposition to the proposition sent to the Empire at the time of publication.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.