Home Winter boots Montana Creek Master Plan Project Reaches New Milestone

Montana Creek Master Plan Project Reaches New Milestone

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The fate of Montana Creek’s winter use for the next decade is currently open for public comment, as steps toward a cohesive master plan for the area are currently underway.

Montana Creek’s draft master plan was released by its planning committee in a public Zoom meeting on Aug. 10 and outlines a wide range of proposed projects, including the construction of new cabins for public use, parking areas , improvements and the creation of hiking / biking / ski trails and motorized / multi-use trails among other suggestions.

The project still has a long way to go before the boots hit the ground, said Michele Elfers, assistant director of the parks and recreation department for the city and borough of Juneau, and said the participation of the public is an important step and is a chance for Juneau residents to voice their concerns or endorse the current plan.

“I think one of the values ​​of a master plan that goes through a community process is that when we hear from the community, we can put it on the plan and be better aligned for grant funding for these types of projects” , she said in public. Zoom meeting.

She said that based on the feedback, the project organizers would use it to facilitate any revisions to the project before it goes to the committee for review and is scheduled for eventual completion in late May 2023.

In recent years, there has been much public discourse among Juneau residents about how the Montana Creek area should be used for recreation. Last summer, more than 280 comments were submitted in response to the Juneau Off-Road Association’s request to build a hardened trail and campground in the area to make it easier to drive off-road vehicles.

Of the public comments — which generated nearly 500 pages of opinion on the topic — 71 expressed support for the proposal and 201 opposed it according to a review of the material conducted by Empire in 2021. account, the Juneau Off-Road Association decided to withdraw its application to build the hardened trail just a month after submitting the application, and on the same day, CBJ issued a press release about its intention to send out a survey informal to residents to review current recreational uses, ideas for improvements and future projects.

The following month, the master plan creation process came soon after and the survey has since been used to develop and guide the master plan. The plan has now been in the works for more than a year with the idea of ​​creating a holistic blueprint for what the future of the region will look like in the next 10 years, Elfers said. The Juneau Off-Road Association has also since proposed an all-terrain vehicle park on the 35 Mile Marker Glacier Valley Highway and is currently awaiting Assembly approval to proceed with the project.

This image shows the plan currently made public and is open for comments until September 10. So far, the plan hasn’t generated much comment, but Montana Creek is a popular recreation. (Courtesy of CBJ Parks and Recreation)

“It’s only the first step in the process and I don’t think things are resolved or done, but there were some good questions and I think there’s more public engagement to be done and more work to be done. on the plan to do,” Elfers said of the current state of the master plan.

The Project Planning Committee is comprised of members from CBJ Parks and Recreation, United States Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation, and Trail Mix staff, all of whom help manage the area.

Elfers said that with the plan being developed in conjunction with the multiple management agencies working in the park, she believes it will create more access to land for people and help the community understand how they can recreate throughout the region.

This image shows the plan currently made public and is open for comments until September 10.  It represents a wide range of proposed projects, including the construction of new cabins for public use, parking areas, improvements and the creation of hiking/biking/ski trails and motorized/multi-use trails among many other suggestions.  (Courtesy/CBJ Parks and Recreation)

This image shows the plan currently made public and is open for comments until September 10. It represents a wide range of proposed projects, including the construction of new cabins for public use, parking areas, improvements and the creation of hiking/biking/ski trails and motorized/multi-use trails among many other suggestions. (Courtesy/CBJ Parks and Recreation)

Elfers said so far there have been around three to five public comments on the master plan, but she expects and hopes that as time nears the end of the public comment period , there will be an increase in comments.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion from the public about land use because there are so many management agencies – people don’t know the regulations, don’t know what they’re doing. can do or where they can do it and there’s not a lot of sense of connection with the region,” she said. “The masterplan process is an effort to bring together land management agencies – who have been meeting for over a year now – to start working together to understand what the public wants from this area and have a smart plan that works moving forward.”

Roman Motyka, the head of the Juneau Nordic Ski Club’s trails sub-committee, said he personally thinks the currently released plan is more of a concept and he thinks the plans need more explanation.

“It’s basically just a map, with no narrative whatsoever,” he said. “How do you comment on a card?

He said the JNSC saw the plan as a long process that would take a lot of time and work to create, and said it was important for the club to go through the process of being involved in the planning so that it can “give the community the best opportunities to explore nature.”

He said he and other members of the club were working on writing comments on the plan, but said there were many factors, some of which they agree with and others with which they are not, which will take time to decide how to comment.

“There’s a blur in some functionality that we need to understand – we’re investigating this and making sure it aligns with our views,” he said. “It will take some time to see which direction it will be taken.”

Ryan O’Shaughnessy, executive director of Trail Mix Inc, said it was typical practice to first share comprehensive recreation plans as a visual map rather than a written plan – especially at the start of a process. of planning – because it is easier to understand the whole. of the plan when everything is presented in a visual aid.

“I think full recreation plans are better visualized on maps and I imagine a written narrative will come later in some form, but at this point it’s much easier to have a dialogue around of a visual plane like a map,” he said.

He said he was delighted the public was engaging in the planning process and was personally very excited about the plan’s goals of building more trails and more public access cabins in the recreation area. .

“These areas are such a recreational asset to Juneau and right now some of them have pretty limited access points,” he said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity for collaborative community-based solutions to create more recreational opportunities there – we’re really excited to see what’s to come.”

Once the public comment period is over, the plan will still need to go through a review process and committee review before it can be completed, which is estimated around the end of May 2023. Elfers said that from there , management agencies can begin looking for ways to fund the projects outlined in the plan, and there are still many steps to take before startups can hit the ground running.

As for which projects will be prioritized once the master plan is complete, Pete Schneider, a U.S. Forest Service natural resources specialist on the committee, said it depends on where the funding is coming from and which projects are most urgent or most urgent. recommended. by the public.

“We put a number of things in place every year and not everything gets funded,” he said. “When you look at the master plan and all the things that could take place, it would take a number of years and funding requests before a lot of this could take place, and a lot of that is going to be feedback-based. public. and what people want to see first.

• Contact journalist Clarise Larson at [email protected] or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.