This map, included in a City and Borough of Juneau Lands, Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting packet, shows the location of a proposed off-road vehicle park. The committee OK’d negotiations between the third party and an enthusiast group seeking to make the park a reality. (City and Borough of Juneau)

This map, included in a City and Borough of Juneau Lands, Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting packet, shows the location of a proposed off-road vehicle park. The committee OK’d negotiations between the third party and an enthusiast group seeking to make the park a reality. (City and Borough of Juneau)

Off-road vehicle park gets traction

City pols OK negotiations for park at Mile 35 Glacier Highway.

An off-road vehicle park on city land at Mile 35 Glacier Highway is a step closer to reality as permission for city officials to negotiate a construction and operations agreement with an enthusiast group was unanimously approved Monday by Juneau’s Lands, Housing and Economic Development Committee.

The often-controversial proposal for an off-road park has been discussed for the past two decades, with the 35 Mile location dismissed as too expensive in 2013. But it is now the preferred option after less remote sites such as Montana Creek that are popular for non-motorized use generated vehement opposition in recent years.

“The site has had lots of study done on it,” Michele Elfers, deputy director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, told the committee. In addition, public feedback during a meeting in February didn’t have the kind of resistance encountered with other proposals and “so far we’ve gotten good feedback on what to think about.”

The committee authorized the city manager to negotiate an agreement with the Juneau Off-Road Association that would then be subject to further review and eventual approval by the Juneau Assembly.

“The city has many agreements similar to this where third parties are operating in city land,” Elfers said, calling the negotiations an “initial step” in the process.

The 1,505-acre parcel of land, known as the McMurchie cut when it was logged during the 1950s and ’60s, has 530 acres suitable for riding, according to a 2013 analysis the current recommendation is based upon. Features envisioned at the park based on public feedback include a 2-acre entry/parking/toilet area, a kids’ training area, two loop trails totaling 1 mile, a 1-acre mud bog and a 30-acre open cross-country area, according to a summary of the project presented to the committee.

“The idea is we need to attract people here so they’re riding in areas that are legal,” Elfers said.

The city still needs to do a number of environmental and other assessments, such as a wetland delineation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and ensuring sufficient drainage in the mud bog area, she said.

Consideration of the site occurred with only a few minutes remaining in the committee’s scheduled hour-long meeting, so discussion and questions by members were minimal, but there were no expressed objections.

“I know this is a long-desired thing in the community,” said Assembly Member Greg Smith. “Thank you to staff for finding a desirable site.”

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at Mark.Sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

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