Opinion: More compromise and less conflict is the right path for Montana Creek

Opinion: More compromise and less conflict is the right path for Montana Creek

As if 2020 hasn’t been enough already!

  • Tuesday, September 29, 2020 11:47am
  • Opinion

By Shawn Eisele, Dan Kirkwood and Jeffrey Wilson

As if 2020 hasn’t been enough already! With the coming snow, a conflict is brewing at Montana Creek. Now more than ever though our community needs cooperation and teamwork, so let’s find a compromise. Fortunately, there’s a win-win available.

Here’s the deal. There’s interest in closing Montana Creek to motorized traffic past the gun range. This threatens all-terrain vehicle riders who feel they have few remaining places to ride. Conversely, ATV use threatens skiers, who can’t ski on snow that’s torn up with wheel ruts, and threatens other non-motorized users who don’t feel it’s safe or enjoyable to walk, jog, bike or snowshoe a narrow trail ATVs are riding.

We think there’s a good compromise: Let’s share the trail, having it open to ATVs half the year (May-October, when riding is good), and groomed for skiing, walking, and snowshoeing the other months (November-April, when riding is poor but skiing is good). ATVs like dirt, skis like snow; a seasonal 50/50 split makes good sense and happy neighbors. Plus, as a community, let’s go a step further and support ATVers in finding a good spot for riding.

It’s important to keep Montana Creek open to skiing. For more than a decade, the trail has been gated and groomed for cross country skiing during the snowy months. In bad winters, and even sometimes in good ones, its unique geography means it’s the only spot holding snow for cross-country skiing. Hundreds if not thousands in our community recreate there by skiing or walking from November through April, making it our most-used, most-successful city park in the winter. Maintaining the trail so it’s passable by skiers and walkers is completely done with volunteer labor at no cost to the city, one of CBJ’s most-successful, cooperative recreation arrangements. The path has fostered, and is crucial to, Juneau’s youth ski program, supporting close to 100 Juneau kids.

It’s also important that ATV riders have a spot. While very few riders want to plow through Montana Creek’s snow in the winter, they do look forward to riding it in the summer. Hundreds of Juneauites have petitioned against closing Montana Creek year-round, and in support of finding a location somewhere in Juneau for a terrain park. These are valid concerns for motorized users who have seen more areas closed to them, while at the same time not found success in developing a viable riding park. While everyone may not like it, broad-based community support is going to be necessary for such a park, and we have to figure out where in Juneau it can occur.

Juneau has seen motorized/non-motorized conflict many times before. In places like Auke Lake, it’s brought not just division, but also tragedy. Montana Creek’s narrow corridor is likely to create greater conflict if we don’t act proactively and cooperatively to find a good compromise. Fortunately, we believe there is one.

Shawn Eisele lives in Juneau and works in outdoor education. He’s primarily a skier, but also enjoys jogging, hiking, and even jet skiing. Dan Kirkwood lives in Juneau, where he runs a small business. Jeffrey Wilson is a 41 year Juneau resident, and for 15 years was a member of Juneau Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. He’s an engineer who enjoys outdoor recreation. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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