Railroad blocks boat launches on Lower Trail Lake

Visitors who want to launch their boats on Lower Trail Lake near Moose Pass have run into a literal roadblock in trying to access the lake recently.

The informal campground and boat launch people have used to access the lake, which adjoins the Seward Highway at the south end of the lake, is now blocked off with a welded gate. Visitors have accessed the land to launch boats by crossing the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s tracks through the gate for years, but the crossing has always been illegal because the company has never issued a formal public crossing permit.

In the past, the Alaska Railroad Corporation has locked the gate, concerned about trespassing on the railroad’s right-of-way and potential accidents. The right-of-way is not open to the public and can only be crossed with crossing permits issued by the Alaska Railroad Corporation, which are either private or public. People have accessed it by crossing Lower Trail Lake Road, which is not a legal access point, according to a public comment on land reclassification an Alaska Railroad Corporation representative submitted to the borough in July.

People have cut the padlocks in the past to get through the gate to reach the area bordering the lake to launch their boats, said Stephanie Wheeler, a corporate communications officer for the railroad.

“People were being kind of unruly and it was getting out of hand,” she said. “The right-of-way itself is not a public place. We don’t want people on the tracks (or) near the tracks.”

After repeated violations, the Alaska Railroad Corporation welded the gate shut.

The land around the lake is currently owned by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. At present, the department has no plans for developing access to the lake, and could not comment on the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s actions, said Elizabeth Bluemink, communications coordinator for the department.

“(The department is) not working on any projects on any state land in the area at this time,” she said.

The land the access point sits on is part of a parcel under consideration for transfer to Kenai Peninsula Borough ownership. The borough selected a number of parcels in the Moose Pass area as part of its municipal entitlement, subject to conditional approval as long as the borough designated them recreational, according to a memo from borough Lands Management Officer Marcus Mueller to the borough assembly about the land reclassification.

The assembly passed a resolution reclassifying the land at its Aug. 9 meeting.

According to DNR’s land records database, no action had been taken to transfer the land since January 2016. The borough’s land records still list the lands as being under Department of Natural Resources ownership.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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