Mat-Su Borough gauges interest in Hatcher Pass resort proposal

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials say the time is finally right for a four-season Hatcher Pass resort, and they're taking their message nationwide.

The borough will run ads in a broad range of national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, to gauge developers' interest in a resort that includes homes, cabins, and condominiums and possibly a convention center.

A ski resort at Hatcher Pass has been a dream for at least 20 years. Three resort developers have tried and failed, apparently stymied by high costs, environmental concerns and uncertain consumer demand.

Officials again say they're ready.

''Everything's in place,'' said Borough Mayor Tim Anderson. ''If it's going to happen, it's going to happen now.''

Among other things, the borough has gained control of the land, the local population has increased and access has improved.

This time around, talk has turned to making a resort that banks on tourists in summer and skiers in winter, but also benefits local residents.

A prime recreation area 55 miles north of Anchorage in the Talkeetna Mountains, Hatcher already draws borough and Anchorage residents to ski, hike and snowmachine under craggy peaks.

The state this summer paved the Hatcher Pass Road all the way to the refurbished Independence Mine State Historical Park.

Assembly members last month included $150,000 in a proposed parks bond for a cross-country ski center for the lower slopes of Government Peak, to be linked to the proposed resort.

Borough officials have chipped away at infrastructure at the proposed resort site, setting aside money for power and building a parking lot and access road.

To give developers a clearer picture of what they're getting into, the borough commissioned studies over the last two years.

A new marketing study by the McDowell Group emphasizes residential and commercial development. It describes a resort that offers easy access to ski trails from homes and condos, a day lodge, small hotel, shops and a restaurant.

The marketing report was accompanied by a geotechnical study by Land Design North, which found that about 1,000 acres are suitable for building.

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