The legislation will be part of the Borough’s comments to an update on a 24-year-old state document called the Hatcher Pass Management Plan. The Plan designates how public land in Hatcher Pass will be managed. The comment deadline is today, May 5.
Planning Chief Eileen Probasco said the draft Plan Update needs a lot more work, and the Borough is ready to work with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
The Borough is developing Nordic ski trails and a Nordic racing venue on the south side of Government Peak and a future Alpine area is planned on the north side.
A recent effort to create a motorized corridor through the area triggered hours of testimony at multiple meetings with both user groups coming out in large numbers. Last night (Tuesday) mostly the skiers gave testimony. Most of them supported Assembly Member Jim Colver’s legislation as a compromise.
Among his proposals are enlarged parking lots and paving the road to the top of the Pass.
“And the resolution that I sponsored crafted a compromise creating a new motorized play area for beginning to advanced snowmachiners to the right of the Archangel Road and into the Hope Creek Valley in exchange for trading out the winter motorized use of the Archangel Trail. It’s just not safe when we have snowmachiners and skiers on the same trail,” Colver said.
Click player to listen to Colver's quote.
Colver’s legislation, some maps, and a Manager letter are the Borough’s recommended changes to the draft Plan update.
Colver said Hatcher Pass plays a key role in the Borough's new economic development plan.
“One of the most important economic drivers in the Mat Valley is Hatcher Pass and I think a lot of people take it for granted, but to have accessible alpine wilderness recreation opportunities that we enjoy it is a major contribution to our local economy, people from all over. Fact , I just saw a show on the Discovery Channel featuring the Hatcher Pass Lodge, we need to market it better and keep it as a desirable destination of what people would expect to see when they come to Alaska. That’s what the resolution was all about. How can we enhance what we have and make sure that the experience is there. When we come see Alaska up close it looks like Alaska.”
Click player to listen to Colver.
Two other boards made passed similar resolutions. On April 15, the Fishhook Community Council voted 63-23 against motorized corridors in the Government Peak area of Hatcher Pass and against motorized corridors in the Mile 16 and Archangel Units. Joe Irvine the Council Secretary told the Assembly it was the largest vote ever.
In April, the MAT-SU Borough Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board passed a resolution recommending that the Hatcher Pass Management Plan create separate corridors for motorized and non-motorized areas.
Assembly Member Vern Halter said he proposed legislation on a motorized corridor because the issue is one that needs addressing. Halter’s legislation failed 6 to 1 last night.
Assembly Member Ron Arvin said he learned something in the debate.
Click player to listen to Arvin.
“And I think I’m fairly clear on record of what my position has been and that’s to support motorized access through the Government Peak unit. But I heard tonight something that I didn’t hear put as clearly as it was and that is, there are residents near that area that bought their property knowing that that was a non-motorized use area, and it’s been that way since 1986. And so with making an investment in land, knowing what the ordinance, statute is for the land use, I think there is some expectation that the people had that there would not be a motorized access through Government Peak unit. I support the legislation that there needs to be additional motorized access ensured for the long-term into the Hatcher Pass Management Plan, but I think we should be very careful dedicating motorized access through the Government Peak area,” Arvin said.
The State Department of Natural Resources staff has requested a meeting with Borough staff to discuss the Borough comments and the public comments on the draft Plan Update.
Assembly Member Pete Houston was absent for this vote.
Click here to view the Hatcher Pass trail parking lot maps.
Click here to see another Hatcher Pass map.
Click here to read Manager's letter to DNR.
For more information call MAT-SU Borough Planning Chief Eileen Probasco at 745-9556.
Photo by Ted Bell.