Haines developer denied motorized vehicles on mountain

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2002

HAINES (AP) -- A developer hoping to take tourists on gas-powered vehicles up a trail to the Mount Ripinsky summit will not have the bird's eye view he hoped.

Instead, Dale Mulford, who has spent about $20,000 completing a fifth of a proposed five-mile trail up the mountain from his own property near Haines, will have to follow a ban on motorized tours handed down by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The department's recommendation, included in the Haines State Forest Plan, prohibits commercial and personal motorized vehicles from the upper reaches of the 3,600-foot peak. Specifically, the recommendation bans motorized use above 500 feet elevation on the west side of the mountain along Haines Highway, and above 1,500 feet on the back side of the popular peak.

The Natural Resource Department took extended public comment before issuing its ruling on Ripinsky uses. Community members were sharply divided, with nearly 100 submitting letters supporting restrictions on motorized use. A public meeting of about 60 residents hosted by the Haines Chamber of Commerce showed reverse sentiment, with nearly all in favor of Mulford's motorized tours.

Mulford said he was disappointed but not surprised by DNR's ruling.

''I knew people were going to yell and scream about a motorized trail,'' he said.

Mulford's plans include bringing groups of up to 40 tourists at a time up his trail on golf cart-like vehicles. The trail will end at a bench near a lake on the back side of Ripinsky, where he'll build a viewing platform.

He originally planned to offer views of town.

''You won't be able to see Haines, but you will have a view of Chilkoot Lake,'' said state forester Roy Josephson. Mulford's customers will be able to access the alpine via a hiking trail, he said.

Opponents said alpine vegetation could have been damaged by motorized vehicles and hikers on existing trails could have been bothered.

Mulford said he planned to keep the area pristine condition. ''If it becomes a mess, nobody's going to go up there,'' he said.

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