A hiker uses snowshoes to travel along the Resurrection Pass Trail near Trout Lake in 2005. Managers of the Chugach National Forest are soliciting comments concerning access from winter users of the trail.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The snow season may be winding down for skiers and snowmachiners, but participants in these two user groups may want to attend a public meeting this weekend to give input on future seasons of winter recreation in Chugach National Forest.
On Saturday, the U.S. Forest Service will be hosting a meeting focusing on winter access to the Resurrection Pass National Recreational Trail, part of the forest service’s much broader Kenai Winter Access Plan.
“We want to hear from people to find out how these plans affect their access to this area,” said Sharon Randall, a forest planner with the Chugach National Forest.
Current management of Resurrection Pass utilizes a “split season” method which annually allows motorized access -- i.e. snowmachines -- in the area from Dec. 1 through Feb. 15, after which time it is managed for nonmotorized recreation, such as skiing and snowshoeing.
Randall said this split has led to some dissatisfaction with both user groups, as each frequently complains the snow is not good enough during their open season.
“Snowmachiners often say there isn’t enough snow that early in the season, but skiers say the same about the later season, and they often complain about the trail being too icy and bumpy from all the snowmachines once they get access to it,” she said.
As a solution, the forest service’s preferred alternative proposes a change in which there will be an annual swap between motorized and nonmotorized user groups. Resurrection Pass would alternate between snowmachiners and skiers annually by being open to one user group for an entire year, and closed to that user group the next year.
This alternative is not without potential problems, though. For example, if there is minimal snow during a user group’s open year, members of that group have the potential to not be able to recreate for three years, since the no snow year would be sandwiched between two closed years.
“You can’t predict the snow,” Randall said.
Also, in prohibiting the use of snowmachines, considerations must be taken to ensure management considerations under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) are met.
“We have to make sure we’re not going to affect traditional activities with this closure,” Randall said.
The forest service definition of “traditional activities” includes -- but is not limited to -- recreation activities, such as camping, sight-seeing and nature and wildlife viewing that generally occur in an area at a designated time.
Under section 1110a of ANILCA, the use of snowmachines (and motorboats, airplanes and nonmotorized surface transportation methods) may be used for traditional activities and for travel to and from homesites and villages. No proof of pre-existing use is required in order to use a snowmachine for these purposes.
The public has been invited to review and discuss the current and proposed management considerations at Saturday’s meeting, which will be the third in a series of three meetings held to get public input on this matter.
The first meeting was held in Cooper Landing last Friday, with the second held in Hope the following day.
“We got good input from the first two meetings and we’re hoping for a big turnout on Saturday,” Randall said.
The meeting will be at the Aspen Hotel in Soldotna. An open house to inform the public on the current and proposed management plans will be discussed at 1 p.m., followed by a public hearing on these plans at 2 p.m.
Randall said written testimony, including e-mail, also is encouraged and will be accepted until 5 p.m. April 19. E-mails can be sent to Randall at email@example.com and written testimony can be sent to: Chugach National Forest, ATTN: Sharon Randall, 3301 C Street, Suite 300, Anchorage, AK 99503.
For more information about the Kenai Winter Access Plan, visit the Chugach National Forest Web page at http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/chugach.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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