Walker signs bill by Muñoz to help Point Bridget park

Gov. Bill Walker has signed into law a piece of legislation pushed by Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, to ease land swaps between the state and private individuals.

House Bill 274 allows the state some flexibility when it comes to those swaps. As a result, the state will be able to complete a long-planned takeover of the trail that leads to Point Bridget State Park, north of Juneau.

“This is the sort of a model that I wish the federal government had,” Walker said before signing the bill.

[State moves ahead with long-planned Point Bridget land swap]

Currently, the sole public access to Point Bridget crosses land owned by Echo Ranch Bible Camp. The ranch has permitted that access — a well-maintained trail crosses the land — but since at least 2001, it has tried to exchange the land occupied by the trail with nearby land owned by the state.

According to documents from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the state would offer 37.93 acres of the park for 59.89 acres of Echo Ranch land. According to an appraisal conducted in 2015, the state land is worth $4,000 per acre and the Echo Ranch land is worth $2,500 per acre, accounting for the differing amounts of exchanged territory.

Each side in the arrangement will receive about $150,000 worth of land.

The state had been stymied in its swap by regulations that required an appraisal to determine that the swapped parcels were worth precisely the same amount. The appraisal was only good for one year, however, and the state could not navigate the process of public comment and public hearings in that timeframe. That led to the swap’s repeated failure.

“It was a win-win situation if we could just get it through,” said Gary Jenkins, an Echo Ranch board member who attended Wednesday’s bill signing ceremony. “Thanks to Cathy, we’re almost there.”

[Muñoz gets three bills through Legislature]

A public hearing has already been held on the swap at Centennial Hall — no one attended — and public comments are being accepted through Sept. 6 at charles.pinckney@alaska.gov.

If all goes as planned, said Ed Fogels, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the Point Bridget swap will be complete by the end of the year.

HB 274 may also allow other, similar swaps across the state. One prospect is the Pile Bay-Williamsport Road, which connects Cook Inlet to Iliamna Lake. Native lands underlie some of that state-owned road.

Across the state, Fogles said there are opportunities for the state to smooth out boundaries where selections made under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and Alaska Statehood Act created problems.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at 523-2263 or james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AK_OK.

Read more news:

Juneau on track to see the most burglaries in a decade

Number of charges reduced for alleged arsonist with drug, mental health problems

One of Juneau’s oldest bars is getting a new name and new look

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 22

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau man indicted on child pornography charges

A Juneau man was indicted Thursday on charges of possessing or accessing… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Juneau’s municipal and state legislative members, their staff, and city lobbyists gather in the Assembly chambers Thursday meeting for an overview of how the Alaska State Legislature and politicians in Washington, D.C., are affecting local issues.
Local leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists discuss political plans for coming year

Morning meeting looks at local impact of state, national political climates.

This photo shows pills police say were seized after a suspicious package was searched. (Juneau Police Department)
Police: 1,000 fentanyl pills, 86 grams of meth seized

Juneau man arrested on felony charges.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Courtesy Photo / CCFR 
Capital City Fire/Rescue Capt. Anne Wilcock received the Emery Valentine Leadership Award at the 2022 CCFR awards banquet on Saturday, Jan. 14.
CCFR honors responders during annual banquet

Capital City Fire/Rescue hosted its 2022 awards banquet earlier this month as… Continue reading

A resident and his dog walk past the taped off portion of the Basin Road Trestle after it suffered damaged from a rockslide earlier this week. The trestle is open to pedestrians, but will remain closed to vehicular traffic until structural repairs are made, according to city officials. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Rocky road: Basin Road Trestle open to pedestrians, remains closed to vehicles

City officials say repairs are currently being assessed after damaging rockfall

Library Director Dave Berry and Advisory Board Chair Kate Finn participate in Library Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday Jan. 17, 2023, at Homer City Hall, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News)
Homer Library Advisory Board upholds decision to retain LGBTQ+ books

A citizen’s group last year submitted a petition asking that the books be removed from the children’s section

Courtesy Photo / Juneau Police Department 
This photo shows Woodrow Farrell Eagleman who police say after going missing on Jan. 11 was seen leaving town on Jan. 12 via airport surveillance.
Police: Man reported missing took plane out of town

A Juneau man recently reported as missing was found leaving town on… Continue reading

Most Read