An effort to add two important pieces of property to Birch Hill Recreation Area has had a setback but is not dead.

The action has been proposed by FNSB Mayor Bryce Ward so that the lots can become part of the recreation area. The NSCF supports this action since this will add benefits to the rec area without having adverse effects on the neighboring properties.

However, on September 26 the Fairbanks Borough Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of an ordinance that would rezone the properties. Many residents living near the lots testified at the meeting with concerns and wanting more information.

The ordinance had been scheduled to next go to the Fairbanks Borough Assembly at its October 12 meeting. However, Mayor Ward has decided to pull the ordinance for now so that the borough administration can have a dialogue with the neighbors to give them more information and address their concerns. The NSCF will be a part of that dialogue.

The NSCF board hopes that more dialogue will eventually result in a rezone and inclusion of the properties in the rec area.

The NSCF sees a variety of potential benefits for public recreation if the Borough successfully rezones the properties and they are added into the BHRA, including:

–Overflow parking on Lot 1A for major events held at Birch Hill instead of on the neighborhood roads,
–Winter access to the public trails not in use for ski races, which is often not possible due to the use of the stadium for the start and finish areas of competitive events, and
–A trailhead and small stadium on Lot 1A offering beginner-friendly access to easier trails that could be constructed to the east of the trailhead on military lands under license to the borough for trail development and maintenance.

The NSCF believes that potential impacts on the Wilderness Drive neighborhood would be mitigated/minimized as suggested by FNSB Parks and Recreation via:

–Not utilizing Lot 2A which fronts on Wilderness Drive for any proposed development, using it instead as a buffer between any development and the Wilderness Drive neighborhood.,
–Retaining the current 150-foot buffer of Lot 2A against the residential lot to the east of that lot.
–Accessing any development on Lot 2A from inside the current BHRA gate as proposed by Parks and Rec, instead of from the current gate and access on Wilderness Drive on the short section where that lot fronts on Wilderness Drive.

Borough staff report on the proposed rezone (submitted to Planning Commission)