Ship Creek Comment Opportunity

Joint Base Elmendorf/Fort Richardson is going through a planning process to identify “encroachment and sustainment” issues. The point of the exercise is to “continue and expand their engagement with community stakeholders to find solutions in areas of shared interest.”

I suggest that one area where JBER could be better neighbors is to re-open Ship Creek to recreational boating. JBER should make this area available to skilled, trained and equipped boaters who register through the recreational pass system.

If this is of interest to you I urge you to send your comments on this and other JBER recreation and access issues to:

Bob Angeli,

Brad Meiklejohn
Eagle River, AK

Thanks for the info Brad.

I will copy the email I send when I’m done.

I also decided comment on the issue. The email I sent is listed below.

Dear Mr. Angeli,

I am writing this email to you as a concerned citizen of Anchorage, and as a general adventure enthusiast. I have heard you are involved in the new planning process for “encroachment and sustainment” issues on JBER, and I think it is my duty to provide you with my opinion as a member of the public at-large, one who is very much interested in improving peaceful relations.

I live on the east side of Anchorage, just south of JBER near the northern end of Muldoon Rd., so the recreational opportunities available on the military reservation are very near at hand. Ship Creek, in my opinion, is the premiere whitewater destination within the Anchorage bowl. It’s upper and middle sections offer challenging class III and IV rapids and lots of fun for boaters at very little cost in terms of transportation and hiking access to the creek via the trail system. As an independent-minded individualist, I quite honestly find it repugnant that such a creek is off limits to boating of any kind within the confines of the military reservation, and has been so now for several years.

Precisely under what reasoning, rule, or regulation is Ship Creek closed to boating? Has there been any legitimate justification to close the creek to boating for a verifiable safety concern other than natural objective hazards which are present on any swift-moving waterway? If there is a verifiable safety hazard beyond natural obstacles, what actions can JBER take to mitigate or eliminate said hazard, so as to eliminate the closure? How many incidents, including injury or death, have occurred on or within this section of Ship Creek since JBER began keeping records of such incidents? Will any public meetings to discuss this issue be scheduled in the near future?

While I resent having to acquiesce to a permitting or registration system for recreational activities of any kind on public land, I can somewhat understand why certain rules are applied on military land. It is not “public” in the more liberating sense, however the area in question is very much designated as a recreational area, with little if any military training exercises being conducted, where members of the public recreate quite frequently year-round, mostly without incident. If you have evidence to the contrary, please provide such information in order to further advance my knowledge. A recreation pass is already required for members of the public to access trails and other areas within the Arctic Valley area. I do not see any reason why such passes cannot be utilized for the purposes of recreational boating (kayaking, packrafting, etc.) on Ship Creek.

The justification for sustaining the closure of Ship Creek on the basis of preventing inexperienced boaters from getting themselves into desperate situations holds very little weight when you consider Bird Creek, a formidable Class V steep creek within Chugach State Park, 20 miles from Anchorage and easily accessed, is readily open to any boaters willing to take on the challenge. Those with less experience tend to shy away from such torrents as Bird Creek, and I see Ship Creek as being no different in that sense…but if one cannot access challenging waterways in the first place, how can “inexperienced” boaters ever expect to become “experienced” boaters? There are many opportunities for individuals to gain training in whitewater rescue skills available to the public almost every summer here in the Anchorage area, which is most certainly an individual’s responsibility to obtain if they expect to paddle serious whitewater on a consistent basis. Such opportunities represent the increased possibility of more responsible boaters seeking to access Ship Creek should it be re-opened, thus potentially increasing public safety by their very presence as a readily-available rescue asset. That being said, such formal training certifications should never be an outright requirement to simply float down a waterway.

Personally, a solution I would agree to would be the signing of a simple liability release waiver, which indicates the hazards, natural or otherwise, along and within Ship Creek, the potential consequences, and absolves JBER and the United States Department of Defense of all responsibility for the welfare of recreational boaters on the military reservation. Such signature would indicate a contractual agreement, and could also serve as the recreational pass, presentable to any JBER official for verification purposes.

My final question is this. In all honesty, does JBER have any intention whatsoever of re-opening Ship Creek in the future, even if the current problem justifying the closure is resolved?

Please take my comments under serious consideration as you move forward in your planning process.


Steven Duby
Anchorage, Alaska
(585) 245-1627

To JBER Community Stakeholders,

Thank you for your interest in the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Encroachment Management Study. We appreciate your input.

If you want further information regarding base recreation and access, please direct your comments to the 673 ABW Public Affairs Office as our company Marstel-Day, nor Bob Angeli who works for Marstel-Day is authorized to officially respond on behalf of the Air Force.


Erika Sawyer
(510) 663-0936