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Thread: Chugach Parkies Hostile to Snowmobilers?

  1. #1

    Default Chugach Parkies Hostile to Snowmobilers?

    I live a couple miles from the Eagle River boat launch. Right now it is closed due to lack of snow, along with most of the park.

    I bought a used sled, and have been itching to explore the river a little, so I am a little impatient.

    A couple years back, when I lived in Anchorage, I wanted to ride powerline pass, but never got the opportunity since it was always closed due to lack of snow or too much snow.

    Before I go off half-cocked and start calling my elected reps, I wanted to get some more opinions. Is there a good reason the Eagle River area is closed right now? Is the park Superintendent a reasonable person, or is he anti-snowmobiler?

  2. #2
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    I believe the conditions that determine whether the park is opened or not are established, published, and available to you. Call the park office and ask them about it. I don't think they have any reason to mislead you.

  3. #3

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    At mile 7.4 Eagle River, the riding is restricted to the river and its gravel bars. The snow depth should be less of a factor in this area than other areas.

    My experience with past closures on powerline pass have made me question the motives of the management.

    I doubt anyone would mislead me, but I have been talked down to by more "enlightened" public servants whose disgust with typical Alaskan traditions was evident. I would question the ability of people prejudiced toward motorized access to operate in good faith with respect to established regulations and guidelines which allow room for subjective interpretation.

  4. #4

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    Your fellow riders have more to do with the situation than anyone else. From Craig Medred's Dec. 31 column, Snowmobile liberty lost to protect Powerline:

    "Under the control of a skilled and competent driver, the modern snowmachine is a marvelous piece of technology, quite possibly one of the best things ever to happen to the Alaska backcountry. It can easily go places hugely difficult to traverse in the warm season and establish first-rate trails for cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, hikers, snowshoers, skijorers, dog mushers and other snowmobiliers. Placed under the control of an incompetent and inconsiderate buffoon, unfortunately, the same snowmachine can become an instrument of destruction able to devastate trails. A throttle-slamming idiot at the control of the most powerful of today's hot-rod snowmobiles can turn the machine into a trail-wrecking, tree- and tundra-shredding ditchwitch.

    This is the reason that Powerline Pass in Chugach State Park above Anchorage remains closed to snowmobiles for so long most years, even though the area may be buried in snow. There are plenty of good and capable Anchorage snowmobilers who could have been up there at Christmas having fun cruising the valley.

    Park rangers, however, were forced to keep the area closed through the holiday because of bad and incapable riders. Several feet of snow has accumulated in the pass. If ridden over carefully, it will pack down to form about six inches of ground-protecting, compacted snow, ranger Tom Crockett reported.

    That's a big "if.''

    Because if the snow isn't ridden over carefully, the paddletrack of a high-power sled can dig all the way to the ground and begin spraying grass, brush, dirt and rocks all over the park.

    As Crockett noted after examining conditions before Christmas, the environmental standards written into the management regulations for Chugach State Park make it impossible to allow snowmobiling in such conditions.
    . . . "

  5. #5

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    I am frustrated by those who damage the image of snowmobiling. We need to actively encourage one another to be smart.

    However, closing powerline pass because someone might dig through several feet of snow and damage the tundra is like closing a campground because someone might cut up the trees for firewood.

    Rather than discriminate against a whole group, I think the park should cite individuals for bad behavior.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by elgoatropo View Post
    I am frustrated by those who damage the image of snowmobiling. We need to actively encourage one another to be smart.

    However, closing powerline pass because someone might dig through several feet of snow and damage the tundra is like closing a campground because someone might cut up the trees for firewood.

    Rather than discriminate against a whole group, I think the park should cite individuals for bad behavior.
    I agree with your first and last statements. Vote for legislators who will fund Alaska State Parks sufficiently to provide effective law enforcement and education.

  7. #7
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    Default Chugach State Park

    I spent 3 years on the Chugach State Park Civil Advisory Board and there were ongoing discussions about motorized vs. non-motorized going on before I arrived and they will go on long after we're all gone....sure, alot of the folks who volunteer for State Parks could be considered "greenies" but there are lots of folks who access parks with motorized vehicles (where/when allowed). I've gotten the "evil eye" from skiers and hikers riding a snowmachine, 4-wheeler, etc. just like everybody does. It's really a matter of conflicting user groups and, let's face it: some activities aren't always compatible with others. Sometimes the only answer is separation....but, I digress. I think State Parks people work very hard to make the parks available to the people and to those activities that are suitable for parks....I also think there are some "anti's" within Parks...but their politics shouldn't be part of their jobs, so if there's an "abuse of power" going on, getting involved gets the job done; complaining doesn't. My 2 cents.

  8. #8

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    As a casual rider, I can think of plenty of people more qualified to sit on advisory boards. My involvement would likely be in the form of a letter to a representative, or a compass piece in the paper.

    I am asking questions so I can write a well-informed letter and not come off like a lunatic.

    SE Mike, with your background, can you tell me why the Eagle River 7.4 mile ride requires deep snow if you are required to stay on the river? If it is just an oversight, a letter to the park superintendent might be all that is necessary.

    Eidsvolling, voting in democrats seems like an unlikely strategy to achieve more motorized access. The reality is that it would be the surest way to guarantee the spandex crowd exclusive use of all our parks.

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    Default State Parks

    Elgoatropo:
    I'd suggest a very reasonably worded letter to the Chugach State Park Superintendant with a copy to the Director of Parks and Outdoor Recreation and you might cc: the local snowmachine club as well. I agree with you, there is no good reason that Eagle River shouldn't be open as the opportunity for damage is extremely minimal (unlike Powerline Pass). Sometimes (this is the really sad part), Parks simply doesn't have enough funding and/or rangers to patrol the park; they've been working with pennies for years and they need dollars! I'm not saying that the funding is the reason for not opening Eagle River and I don't know what the current management thought process is, but it could be an additional funding burden to open part of the park and that could be money that they don't have....call / write the Super and find out. One thing I've learned about Alaska is that one person can make a difference! Good luck, let us know how it goes.

  10. #10
    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    The new Park Superintendent spoke last Wednesday night to the Anchorage Snowmobile Club. He is now himself a novice snowmachiner.

    I'm summarizing here, but he said something to the effect that the park has a specific mandate to "protect" the habitat while providing reasonable public access. He said his primary job was to monitor and impose, rescind, or amend policy in an attempt to strike a balance between the two.

    The rangers monitor snow depth and report to him. He makes the call to open or close. He did say that the popularity of long, paddle tracked machines forced a change in the snowdepth requirements.

    All in all, he came across as open to input from the public, and he did not come off as hostile to snowmachiners in the park.

    On a sidenote, if you are not a member of your local riding club I suggest you join....strength in numbers and all

  11. #11

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    Thanks for the info, Eric. I'll look into the Anchorage Snowmobile Club. Sounds like we have a good guy in charge of the park.

  12. #12

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    The Eagle River has been re-opened to motorized acccess for a few days now, even though there was no new snow. I ran the length of it yesterday from the yurt to the Glenn Highway. It was pretty hard snow on the East end, while the West end was still soft in places. Upstream from the Yurt, the ice did not look that good.

    The trail sign at the boat launch shows that you can put in at the Nature Center, but when I scoped it out, there was no obvious place to drive in. I talked to a local guy walking by, and he commented that it seemed like they were trying to hide the motorized access behind a locked gate with no signs.

    You gotta love those fanatics down there. Even bicycles are not green enough for them.

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