From: Michelle Roller [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, May 21, 2004 10:22 AM
Subject: 3rd Newsletter
Thank you for your interest in the Chena River State Recreation Area Management Plan. A number of newsletters have been returned to State Parks. As a result, I am sending out this email. A complete list of comments can be viewed on the web at: www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/plans called "Public Comments on Draft Plan, April 2004"
The following is taken directly from the newsletter.
We'd like to let you know what we heard about the Chena River State Recreation Area Management Plan draft during the January 6th to February 9th public review. Two public meetings were held in Two Rivers (January
23rd) and Fairbanks (January 29th) to hear what you had to say regarding the draft recreation plan.
We'd like to thank all of you who took the time to either attend a meeting and/or submit comments on the draft Chena River State Recreation Area Management Plan. We are now in the process of going through your comments and making changes to the plan, which will be available for your review and comment in late May or early June. We will send you a notice as soon as the next draft is available.
The Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation received approximately 270 written and oral comments on the Draft Chena River SRA Management Plan. Each person's comments were sorted according to the issues they addressed. Some comments may appear under more than one issue. The issues are listed below in alphabetical order. For issues with more than four comments, a summary of comments is provided.
LIST OF ISSUES
Campgrounds - (3 comments)
Commercial Operators - (1 comment)
Education & Interpretation
Many comments requested a variety of educational programs within the Recreation Area. These include boater safety and ethics education, trail ethics, appropriate waste disposal and more. There was wide support for having interpretive panels in the Recreation Area. Suggestions for what to display on the panels include leave-no-trace camping, wildlife, geology, vegetation, trails (including conditions and maps), and river information, including river conditions, float times, gravel bar access points and scenic view points.
In general, the majority of the comments regarding fees expressed the need for user fees, especially if the fees were used to support the operation and maintenance of the facilities within the Recreation Area. One comment disagreed with an entrance fee to the Recreation Area since some vehicles may be just passing through.
Some comments received mentioned concerns about public process, public notice, and government restrictions.
The majority of the commenters expressed their enjoyment of and appreciation for the opportunity to camp in areas that are not designated, noting that gravel bar camping offers a more private setting than a campground or designated sites. Of the comments specific to gravel bars, the majority opposed restrictions on motorized access to the gravel bars, although some proposed some limitations on gravel bar use. A few people suggested establishing a gravel bar camping permit or fee system. Others suggested restricting motorized vehicles to designated gravel bars. Others requested closing gravel bars to motorized uses.
Horse Use - (1 comment)
Commenters mentioned limiting hunting along the road to bow hunting, limiting trapping to off-trails, limiting or banning bear baiting and opening campgrounds to hunting during the off-season.
The majority of comments specific to the logjam topic sited the importance of allowing the river to take its natural course. Some reasons cited for leaving logjams included the fact that they provide woody debris which is critical habitat for young fish and vital for maintaining the integrity of the riparian zone, as well as it being a natural occurring event that should remain. Some people mentioned that they would prefer to have the logjams removed from the river because of safety concerns for boaters and the loss of homes down stream.
Maintenance was a top priority for commenters before new facilities are constructed.
Other comments addressed Darryl Hunt's passing, fire hazard reduction, mining, the road to Circle Hot Springs, a proposed visitor center, RV camping, mapping confusion and powerlines.
Permits - (2 comments)
Public Use Cabins & Shelters
The majority of the comments on this issue supported the maintenance and addition of more overnight accommodations in remote areas. Suggestions
- Locating public use cabins and shelters on a spur trail off of the main trail to limit user conflicts.
- Adding shelters or cabins along the Nugget Creek, Chena Dome and Granite Tors trails due to the limited wood source and the nature of the trails, while others favored keeping the area more primitive.
- Establishing tent pads or yurts away from the main trails in areas were there is potential habitat deterioration with current additional use. A few commenters did not want to see more public use cabins, but want better maintenance of existing facilities.
The majority (approximately 84%) of the comments that addressed the Chena River within the Recreation Area would like to see it managed in the future the way it is being managed now, allowing motorized use. Approximately 75% of these comments were received on a single issue form letter. People said that there is already too much legislation in Alaska and that they wanted to preserve the right to boat the river for their children and grandchildren. Comments also expressed a concern that closing the river to motorized use would prevent them from accessing the East (Middle) Fork of the Chena River that is not in the Recreation Area. Others wrote that the Recreation Area is multi-use and should remain that way to allow for motorized use that has been occurring for years. Numerous occasions were cited where power boaters rescued floaters. Approximately 13% of the comments that addressed the Chena River requested making some portion of the Chena River non-motorized. Reasons included the desire to have a quiet river experience close to home and safety concerns due to the narrowness of this portion of the river (stating power boats and non-power boats don't mix well in narrow winding rivers that have numerous sweepers). These commenters stated they understand that the East (Middle) Fork river is used by the motorized boats and would like a portion of the river in the Recreation Area float only. Other suggestions included seasonal separations and horsepower restrictions. One comment stated, "separating different types of user activities has been an effective management strategy across Alaska for a multitude of activities." Comments were received that expressed the desire to have the entire Chena River within the Recreation Area be designated for non-motorized use only (approximately 3%). Most of these commenters would like to have an area near town that offers a quiet float experience and are concerned about the safety of the wide range of users on the winding, narrow upper Chena River. Other comments specifically concerned personal watercraft. Most preferred to have personal watercraft excluded in the Recreation Area. Other comments requested that airboats be restricted from the Recreation Area. A few commenters were specifically in favor of these two activities. Very few comments were received regarding the river condition. A couple comments cited the problem that the riprap at 38-Mile increases the water's flow and causes more erosion downstream.
The majority of the comments regarding river access suggested improving access in the Recreation Area and providing additional opportunities. Maintaining the ability to access the river was expressed as an important opportunity offered in the Recreation Area. Repairing the existing access roads and constructing good put in/take out points was strongly recommended, such as improving the Rosehip take out or moving it to a better location, like Hodgin's Slough. Comments also requested keeping the access as status quo. Some comments requested the closing of some of the river access roads to prevent the potential for illegal activities like littering, underage drinking and poaching, to better maintain fewer roads, and to discourage the current informal camping that blocks the access.
Comments specific to the shooting range requested better access, improved facilities and better maintenance.
Many people commented that they would like to see the Recreation Area remain status quo. Some of the reasons people mentioned are:
- No standardized visitor satisfaction data collection or reports have been used to prepare this plan.
- The potential for conflict is not an acceptable justification for limiting uses, nor is it scientifically based.
- Changing the current management practices would exclude the majority of the users.
- The existing plan continues to be the best source of action at this time.
- No user conflicts have been cited with State Parks.
- The current plan allows for the maximum multi-use and does not attempt to shutdown a state park for a narrow user group.
- This is a great and beautiful multi-use area.
- There is no reason, at this time, to impose access restrictions, limit uses, or further regulate the Recreation Area. These comments expressed the desire to keep with the intent of the legislation and ensure that the Recreation Area is available to all users.
Most of the comments regarding trails in the Recreation Area supported some type of management of motorized use during the non-snow months. Suggested management options include:
1) Hardening soft surfaces
2) Fixing trail damage caused by ATV use
3) Closing trails to ATVs during the wet seasons
4) Establishing new or rerouting existing ATV trails to higher, dryer areas. Of the comments specific to trails, some of the comments wanted some ATV limitations on the trails; some requested the Recreation Area be non-motorized on the trails during the snow-free months. Other comments included keeping the status quo.
Many comments were received regarding conducting a user survey, though
some of these comments appear under other issues. People have
requested that a comprehensive user survey be conducted prior to any major changes.
Comments supported the wildlife viewing areas for better information, improved safety along the road, and encouraging tourism. One comment wanted the areawide wildlife viewing opportunities to remain status quo.
A few commenters expressed concern regarding the zoning of the Recreation Area.
If you have any questions please call me at 907 451 2759. Respectfully, Michelle Roller
Issues and concerns on land use and trail issues. Look here for recent articles related to these two concerns
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