The Juneau Off-Road Association and Trail Mix Inc. have received a grant from Polaris to begin preliminary work on building an off-road vehicle park out beyond the 35-mile marker on Glacier Highway. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The Juneau Off-Road Association and Trail Mix Inc. have received a grant from Polaris to begin preliminary work on building an off-road vehicle park out beyond the 35-mile marker on Glacier Highway. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Trail Mix, Juneau Off-Road receive grant for future park

The potential park would be located at mile 35 out on Glacier Highway.

Trail Mix Inc. and the Juneau Off-Road Association have received a $10,000 grant from Polaris, Inc. to begin design work for an off-road vehicle park located near the end of Glacier Highway.

Slated for a location beyond the 35-mile marker, the park has been a long time coming, said Darrin Crapo, president of JORA.

“No one else is doing anything out there. We don’t want to displace people,” Crapo said. “It lacks environmental issues. It lacks competing issues. It’s already logged. Lowest cost, lowest impact. What’s not to like?”

[Low early-run king numbers prompt restrictions]

A managed park will be a new addition to Juneau, where ORV users are typically limited to riding their vehicles in places like the tidelands around Echo Cove. The potential new area, just beyond Sunshine Cove, isn’t home to a fish habitat, which simplifies things enormously, Crapo said.

“The demand is there and people started to figure out what we can do with this. People figured out that if we manage this, we can avoid some of the problems if it’s unmanaged,” Crapo said in a phone interview. “It’s a step in the right direction. There’s a tremendous amount of demand throughout the country.”

While JORA is a pretty active group, the space to ride in Juneau has been limited, Crapo said. The activity of off-road vehicle recreation as a whole is changing, Crapo said.

“Over the years, things have changed a lot in the world in terms of off-road,” Crapo said. “It’s kind of matured and grown up.”

The lack of an ORV park is not a new concern, according to a Trail Mix news release.

“ORV riding areas were identified as a park system gap in the 2019 Parks and Recreation Plan, and a 2020 (City and Borough of Juneau) Parks and Recreation survey found an off-road vehicle park was the top rated investment for a recreation asset or facility,” the news release read. “This is consistent with the action of voters in 2012 when they approved a 3% temporary sales tax for development of an ORV park, which resulted in $250,000 that still exists for this use.”

A designated space specifically for ORV operators would remove issues with other groups and allow them to maintain and manage their own park, said Trail Mix executive director Ryan O’Shaughnessy.

“As an advocate for trails in Juneau, it’s our goal for everyone to be able to access and enjoy the outdoors in a responsible manner. By ensuring the ORV community has a dedicated place to ride, we should see a reduction in conflicts between trail user groups as well as unauthorized riding,” O’Shaughnessy said in a news release. “ORV riders should have a place to call their own, and we are grateful to Polaris for helping us get one step closer to this reality.”

According to the plan lined out with the City and Borough of Juneau, JORA will operate the facility.

“When you have a single organization responsible, that simplifies things,” Crapo said. “That chaos is not what we’re looking for.”

The organization would maintain the recreation area, making sure it wasn’t abused and that it remained clean and safe to operate ORVs in, Crapo said.

“We’re partners with Parks and Rec and Trail Mix. We wanted to work with trail mix because they’re known entities in this kind of thing,” Crapo said. “The $10,000 is to help us through the design phase. The idea is to minimize the environmental impact. We want recreational solutions.”

Trail Mix applied on behalf of JORA for the grant, which comes from Polaris, a outdoor and all-terrain vehicle manufacturer, as part of a grant program to provide funding for snowmobiling and ORV activities, according to the news release.

“Polaris is thrilled that funding from our T.R.A.I.L.S. grant program will help Trail Mix and JORA make the ORV park a reality,” said Dana Anderson, a Polaris senior manager for community outreach in the news release. “These grants are meant to help create a safe and enjoyable experience for all those looking to get outside and ride.”

Crapo is optimistic about the future of the park, he said.

“This has been something that’s surfaced a number of times over the years and always failed. But things are different now,” Crapo said. “The support is there and the pushback is not. We’re inviting people to be a part of this. If they have issues, we want to talk about it.”

For updates as the permitting and design phase go forward, Crapo recommended following the Juneau Off-Road Association on social media.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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