Compass: Snowmachiners, skiers should settle Kincaid debate

Last week an impassioned debate took place at the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Commission regarding motorized winter use at the Kinkaid/Jodhpur area. The question before the commission: is Kincaid Park the right place for winter motor sports? Which leads to the question, if not the Jodhpur motor sports area, is there any place in the Anchorage Bowl that is an appropriate place for winter motor sports?

The Jodhpur site used to be a gravel pit and a car crushing facility -- two uses that we would have a hard time fathoming in that location today. The 1983 Kincaid Master Plan established Kincaid as primarily a pedestrian park area. The plan mentioned ATV use at the Jodhpur site, but recommended that it be discontinued at Jodhpur and moved elsewhere. In 2006 the Kincaid Master Plan was updated. The Jodhpur motor sport area was mentioned in the updated plan in terms of its existence and improvements having been made through a grant. Not much else was said. Winter use of the area was not discussed.

Currently the Jodhpur motor sport area operates under an agreement with the Anchorage Racing Lions. They carry liability insurance, manage the site, control access, pick up trash and educate their members on proper use, rules and etiquette. This arrangement seems to be working. However, winter motor sport users feel left out. The motocross area is currently open 10 a.m. Wednesday to 8:30 p.m. Sunday from April through November. They complain that their summer hours have been cut back and there are no winter use areas. They want a place to install jumps, race snocross, teach kids to ride, demo a machine or test repairs before heading out of town.

The ski community has tolerated the summer only motorized use of the Jodhpur site. But with the prospect of winter use they have drawn a line in the snow. They contend that it is not compatible with skiing, there will be too much noise and smoke and riders will be lured onto adjacent ski trails causing damage and creating a safety hazard.

The Sand Lake Community Council wrote a letter of "enthusiastic support "for the snocross proposal -- except that they stopped short of giving any level of direct support-enthusiastic or otherwise- to the Jodhpur site or any site that is actually in the Sand Lake Community.

Neighbors testified that they have been fighting motorized use at the park for 33 years. Motorized users commented that they resent people building homes next to an existing motorized area and then complaining about it. They undoubtedly find some irony in hearing these homeowners' complaints about noise when they look up to see a 747 on final approach at the adjacent airport.

I see a variety of passionate and committed groups advocating for their rights and working through complex emotional issues. Frankly it's encouraging to witness, especially the involvement of so many young people. From a Parks and Recreations standpoint, it's a good problem to have.

Anchorage has a parks system that reflects who we are as a city and a people. It is diverse, vibrant and active. We have the non-profit Anchorage Park Foundation with a dedicated staff that is generously supported with both money and volunteer efforts throughout the community. The Anchorage Park Foundation web site lists the following: over 10,000 acres of parkland, 223 parks, 250 miles of trails, 110 multiuse fields, 5 pools, 11 recreation centers (chalets and indoor rinks), 82 playgrounds -- and one summer motor -sports area.

Is Anchorage ready to put 33 years of bickering and close-mindedness behind it, to understand and empathize with each other a little more, and find a solution that goes beyond half-measures?

Jim Winchester is a member of the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Commission.