This photo shows the view from Montana Creek Trail on June 17, 2021. This week, state officials said that a plan by the Juneau Off-Road Association to build a hardened trail and campground in Montana Creek to make it easier for people to operate all-terrain vehicles has been shelved. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Juneau Off-Road Association pulls request to build hardened trail in Montana Creek

CBJ announces survey as first step for master plan of the area

A plan to build a hardened trail for all-terrain vehicles and a campground near Montana Creek that attracted hundreds of comments has been shelved, according to state officials.

In a letter dated July 19, the state Department of Natural Resources said that “the applicant requested the suspension so that it could engage in public educational outreach efforts and provide additional information to the Juneau Community regarding the proposed project.”

On the same day, the City and Borough of Juneau issued a news release that said the city is seeking feedback to understand community values and the use of the area via an online survey.

According to the city’s release, the survey is the first step in CBJ’s work with the United States Forest Service, the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and Trail Mix Inc., a local group that focuses on trail improvements, to develop the Montana Creek Master Plan.

The survey, which is available on the city’s website, is open until 5 p.m. on Aug. 19.

In a social media post shared with the Empire, Darrin Crapo, president of the Juneau Off-Road Association and lead petitioner for the project, said that he believes that the group will get additional access through the planning process.

“At the end of this process, I believe we can get motorized access and with involvement from the Forest Service in this process, potentially better snow access to Spaulding, as well. Likely, a dedicated motorized trail,” the post reads.

A new road ahead? There’s a proposal for an access road at Montana Creek

About the project

In March, the Juneau Off-Road Association submitted a request to build a hardened trail in the Montana Creek area, making it easier for people to operate all-terrain vehicles. Originally, the proposed trail was approximately 6,800 feet long and 25 feet wide, containing about 3.90 acres and an additional quarter acre for a campsite. However, the plans were subsequently updated to reflect a trail that would be 8 feet wide.

According to the petition filed with the state, the proposed trail would be made of hardened gravel and suitable for multi-modal use.

Proposed Montana Creek Access Road generates almost 500 pages of comments

Robust public comment

Because the proposed trail required easement on state property, a public notice describing the project appeared on the state’s website this spring and a public comment period opened.

During the public comment period — which was extended 30 days past the original deadline based on a request from adjacent landowners — users submitted 280 comments, creating a 495-page record of opinions on the plan.

Of the comments submitted to the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining, Land and Water, Southeast Regional Land Office, 71 voiced support for the proposal, 201 opposed it, and two posed questions about the project, based on a review of the material conducted by the Empire in June.

Finding another location

According to Crapo’s social media post, he has been meeting with representatives from the city and Trail Mix for several months about a different site, located “Out the Road,” near milepost 35.

Ryan O’Shaughnessy, executive director at Trail Mix confirmed that conversations about the site had been ongoing with Trailmix and that it could be a suitable site for off-road riding.

“We are in the very early stages of planning,” O’Shaughnessy said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Once we look at it and understand more, CBJ would start the public comment process.”

O’Shaughnessy said that the site sits on a parcel of parks and recreation land between North Bridget Cove and South Bridget Cove. He said that it is not in a watershed, relatively dry, has cellphone service and other attributes that could make the spot a good fit.

Michele Elfers, deputy director of CBJ Parks and Recreation, said that she has been working with different riding groups for several months to find suitable riding locations. She said that the location near milepost 35 “has risen to the top as one that’s potentially feasible.”

In a phone interview late Tuesday, she said that a field site visit has been conducted. She said the site had been identified at an earlier juncture and that the city was trying to leverage work done to evaluate past sites.

Elfers said the site was previously logged and includes parking and staging areas that “lend itself really well.”

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4890.

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