SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


4-Wheelers and Snowmachines
By Lee Caskey


November 26, 2007
Monday AM

I am guessing that some folks don't fully comprehend the limitations of this island. I've been around here for several years so let me fill you in on a bit o' history...

Once upon a time, North Point Higgins was nothing more than a dirt road. Then around 1985 the school was built at the end of it and the road was paved and fitted with sidewalks and street lights. I know because I went to it the first year it opened. During the construction of that school a vast field made from piles of sawdust was laid out and quickly became playgrounds for riders of all manner of vehicles. A trail was even constructed thorough the woods to an overlook near the water tanks. The "sawdust pits" were a great place to ride around in because they were soft, muddy and made for terrific fun! Life was good, until someone got hurt. After that anyone caught in the pits was shooed off. The two baseball fields now occupy the space, but the trail is still there.

There are several roads off of and connecting to N Pt. Higgins. Down one road, Higgins Spur, was where I grew up. Riding motorcycles, ATC's and ATV's around is not a new thing, at all. My parents warned me about hanging out with the wild bunch of kids who tore up and down the back roads and improvised trails on their machines. I didn't listen much and would catch a ride when I could. Wishing I had my own motorbike, the best I could do was put playing cards in my bicycle spokes. I never did learn to ride a real motorcycle...

Regardless of the appearance of being an "upper class" area, North Point Higgins hasn't changed much, there are still the same sort of people living there, doing the same sorts of things. Are some not so bright? Perhaps. But perhaps not! Why, Mr. Person, do you find it necessary to talk down to every "pin-head" who owns 4-wheeler and attempt to tell them how to raise their "litter"? Ask yourself: Just WHO do YOU think YOU ARE?!

I mentioned that North Point Higgins is streetlit. Even at night everything on and around the main roadway is clearly visible. Plus, it is illegal to ride any motorcycle on the streets without functioning head and brake lights. There are also noise ordinances to be obeyed as well after certain hours. If these infractions are occurring and it bothers you, report it and they will be dealt with. Otherwise, the only ways for a car to hit a 4-wheeler would be if either the driver isn't paying attention to the road or the rider isn't watching where they are going and a collision occurs. This happens frequently anyway, day or night and it isn't restricted to 4-wheelers. They're called vehicle accidents and when they happen the appropriate agencies are called forth to determine fault.

Moving on to Harriet Hunt and motorized vehicles in that area. Mr. Moen, you must realize that area is seldom patrolled and is generally regarded by many as a playground, especially for ATV's and snowmachines. It is set back away from any housing and is an ideal location for many activities that are noisy. Unfortunately this also brings along the problem of litterbugs, drinking and wanton destruction. I've spent many snowy winter days and many summer tourist seasons up there and I don't like seeing tore up muskeg and ruts as much as the next person, but if it's going to happen I would rather the damage be contained in one well-worn place than have more areas harmed. When you look at the total road-accessible area on this island there really isn't very many places for people to ride.

You could risk getting locked in at another once-popular place called Whipple Cree, but I don't recommend it. Once it was an old quarry with several trails and obstacles that was VERY popular with riders until very sadly, young Rex Seley died in 1992. Soon after, it was closed off completely. Another spot was the logging road behind D1 Loop but that too was gated off after a short while as well. It's a little ironic actually, often the areas that have the greatest appeal and would seem to offer the best riding and challenges are often places you're not supposed to be.

Harriet Hunt and Brown Mountain are just about the only places people can legally ride their machines around anymore and then only on the road. There are no "approved and marked trails" to traverse for those interested in a challenge, although the snow makes for tough goings on some of the roads in the winter. The only notable exception, (Thank you Tom Ferry!) is the Ketchikan Snowmobile Club who have access to excellent, if not challenging riding, via an old Cape Fox logging road that is kept under lock and key year-round. They have a good arrangement worked out and are a wonderful example of cooperation at work.

I am not a tree-hugger either, but having grown up here I do recognize the need for a place for people to enjoy the activity of off-road driving, snowmachine and ATV riding, especially for young people. The question is: WHERE? I believe everyone has a right to ride. Ideally everyone would do this responsibly, but that isn't the case. Instead of complaining about the effects and possible dangers, I agree with Mr. Westergard and lets have a REAL solution instead?

One idea that immediately comes to mind, that Mr. Westergard touched on, is having a public off-road park like those in the lower-48 that everyone could access. A volunteer group could be set up to maintain and police the area. Various local companies, especially construction outfits, could donate materials and equipment time and even sponsor events. Trails could be maintained and modified to suit specific terrain desires. Above all it would be understood that any damage to people or vehicles is the responsibility of the owner to avoid sticky legal crap.

Please understand that I do not wish to offend, but I also do not approve of this wonderful resource of SitNews being used for rampant complaining by people who obviously "aren't from around here" and wish for long-time residents like me to just obey and fade away...

Lee Caskey
Ketchikan, AK

About: "I am a 30 year old born and raised K-town boy, making a living and raising my own family."

Received November 21, 2007 - Published November 26, 2007


Related Viewpoints:

letter 4-Wheelers By Tryg Westergard

letterFour-wheelers By Craig Moen



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Ketchikan, Alaska