By Jonathan Grass
Juneau Empire (Alaska)
The long-pending snowmobile access trail in Lemon Creek may be getting closer to fruition. The Juneau Blackerby Ridge Organization, or JBRO, is applying for two state grants that, if approved, could allow construction to begin this spring.
JBRO is applying for $50,000 from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources' Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation Trail Grant plus another $15,000 DNR Trail Grant for snowmobiles.
Bob Janes of JBRO said the $50,000 application will be submitted before Nov. 15, allowing construction to begin in April if it's awarded. The snowmobile grant will be applied for by July 1, 2011.
"It's not a great deal of money, but we need some money to get started," said Ray Howard of the Juneau Snowmobile Club. Janes and Howard have been working on getting the trail built for the last three years.
"We're working feverishly to get all the approvals in place. There's a significant amount of oversight," he said.
The proposed 3.3 mile trail would start adjacent to Home Depot and wind around to Blackerby Ridge, accessing Ptarmigan Glacier. Howard said it will be an all-purpose trail accessible to snowmobiles, hikers, cyclists and others, depending on the time of year.
Juneau Parks and Recreation Director Marc Matsil said the trail is multi-jurisdictional, covering lands of the city, state and U.S. Forest Service.
Howard said while the want of a snowmobile trail was a driving factor in the project, this trail is intended for multiple types of users and is not as arduous as the current trail.
"This is a good asset to our whole trail system," Janes said. "A lot of people come along that way and this will be something for everybody."
JBRO has developed an eight-week construction plan based on these grants. It is broken into phases, each dependent on specific grant amounts and matching funds. The plan begins with reconnaissance and field surveys and moves into the actual construction. The last parts include a work force for a safety plan and snow removal on the trail.
In addition to grants, the plan is based on $16,120 in matching funds. Howard said a lot of these funds will come from participating parties such as the Juneau Snowmobile Club. He said the club will provide equipment, labor and materials that will make up such funds. He said there are already several commitments from the club.
Janes said progress on a snowmobile trail's construction has been slow over the years due to controversies about creating a snowmobile trail and finding an appropriate site. The Alpine Working Group formed and ultimately proposed the Blackerby Ridge project.
Matsil said such controversies typically stem from safety issues concerning any trail that mixes users with and without machines. He said these are perennial controversies brought up on many trails for machine use and not the Blackerby Ridge proposal specifically.
He said this trail, in fact, resolves some of those safety concerns because it consists of a wide area and terrain that helps accommodate the multi-user aspect.
He said the project has been endorsed by the city's Assembly Lands Committee and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.