28 April 2005

Is the Kodiak Launch Complex a private playground for employees of the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation?

On the afternoon of Sunday, January 9, I was driving through the Kodiak Launch Complex on my way to Fossil Beach when a pickup truck with state license plates escorted a flurry of unlicensed off road vehicles (dirt bikes and 4-wheelers) out of the Mission Control building parking lot and sped down the road toward Fossil Beach.

When I arrived at the beach, the ORVs were tearing up and down the beach, and the state vehicle was parked on the bluff above, with two small children in the cab and a dog in the back. Later, as I headed back toward town, several of the ORVs passed me and pulled into the Mission Control parking lot.

I pulled in to investigate and observed that many of the riders were clearly under the age of 16 and some appeared to be small children. Trailers for hauling ORVs had been placed in the back of the lot so that AADC vehicles blocked any view of them from the road; I could not ascertain if this was intentional or not.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, the state vehicle pulled in. The driver introduced himself as site manager of the KLC. I asked him if he was using a state vehicle for personal business. He replied that he was “off duty”. I asked him if he realized that it was illegal to ride ORVs on state roads. He told me that he was aware of that fact and if I had a problem, I should contact his boss, Pat Ladner. During our conversation, ORVs continued to pull into the lot, having traveled through the KLC on the state road. It appeared that the site manager condoned and facilitated the illegal activity.

It is disappointing and troubling when employees of a state-owned corporation use state property and state vehicles to facilitate and engage in activities that violate Alaska statutes.

One wonders if the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation’s requests for expanded authority over state lands are merely a ploy to enlarge and protect their employees’ private playground.

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