Press "Enter" to skip to content

A “Drone Racing Park” is being set up at Jim Creek with little to no Public Process

This item is on the agenda of tonight’s MSB Assembly meeting.  It is an ANNOUNCEMENT not an item to be discussed and voted on.


The MSB Manager & Community Development Department are announcing that they are going to allow former MSB Assembly member Stephen Colligan’s group – the Alaska Drone Racing League – to make “some improvements” to “their” drone park out at Jim Creek.  (NOTE: There is another very interesting Informational Memo re: Mr. Colligan on the same agenda.)

WHERE IS A COPY OF THE ACTUAL PERMIT? Where are pages 1 through 5? Why doesn’t the MSB disclose ALL of the relevant information on its website? Also – why is this item simply an informational item being placed on the Assembly meeting agenda – and why didn’t it go to the Parks & Recs Board OR to the Aviation Board or the Butte Community Council for approval FIRST? Also – why weren’t Public Notices mailed out to everyone in the area? That is the usual process for Land Use Permits.

Note: This site plan document is old and doesn’t show the new Jim Creek campground which is located in the section above the yellow line.

This is the MSB’s modus operandi.  Everything is done behind the scenes and basically all set up and then it is TOO late for the public to object. The MSB never asked the public what we thought of the original proposal for drone racing out at Jim Creek and now it is making an announcement that it is allowing the drone folks (who have been racing out at Jim Creek for “several years”) to make improvements to “their” field and cut off access to a trail.

My prediction – the Drone Folks are going to cut off public access to this entire area and add infrastructure – such as some sort of a drone runway or air traffic control tower.

Here are two videos showing the site of the “Drone Park” (i.e. the public’s land out at the Jim Creek recreational area – soon to be turned over to the Drone League by the MSB.)

[wpvideo GJ637IAj]

Another video of the area:

[wpvideo ZiGwzbSA]


April 16th 2019:

I noticed this item on the Assembly legislation section of the MSB’s website:

drone didn't make may 7 agenda

So I posted about it on the Facebook Group “Borough Budget Watch.”

Drone Post April 16

And I sent an email to the MSB Clerk (on April 16th):

This document is not on the website – just the title of the document is there.

Can you please send me a copy via email asap?


This was her response:

Lonne response

I never did receive a copy of the document.

Then, mysteriously, the drone item disappeared from the Assembly legislation section and wasn’t placed on the May 7th Assembly Agenda.

It then appeared on the agenda for the upcoming Parks & Recs Board meeting:

PRTAB agenda May 2019

However, there was no information about this item in the meeting packet so I sent an email out (to MSB – Community Development Director & the Parks & Recs manager) asking for the info:

May 9th, 2019:


I am sending this note to the MSB but I am also CC’ing the members of the Parks and Recs and Trails Board.

I noticed that the agenda and packet for the May 22nd (or is it May 20th?) PRTAB meeting was recently posted on the MSB website.
One of the agenda items is a Jim Creek Drone Racing permit.
However, the packet doesn’t include a copy of this permit or any information about it.
Can you please send me a copy of the permit and any and all information re: this drone park OR post it online as part of the meeting packet?
This drone park item has shown up at various times on the PRTAB agenda for approx two years now.  First, there was going to be some sort of Management Agreement (I kept asking for a copy to review and never received one) and now that seems to have morphed into a “Permit.”  What is the Drone Racing League trying to do out at Jim Creek? Are they trying to put permanent infrastructure in place there? I think they are using 7 acres now but perhaps they want to control 50 acres?
A Drone Park Permit was going to be taken up at the May 7th MSB Assembly meeting, but then it was taken off that agenda. I asked the Clerk for a copy of the permit a few weeks ago and she said it wasn’t available yet.
This whole drone park business seems a bit mysterious…and there never seem to be any documents provided online for the public to review.  It is all the more curious because the Drone Racing League is run by former MSB Assembly member Steve Colligan.
I am unable to attend the PRTAB meeting out in Willow but I am very curious as to what is going on with the supposed “Drone Park.”
Could the MSB please post everything it has with regards to this proposed Drone Park on the MSB website??
I am sure that the residents of the Butte and the Aviation community would like to see the plans for the “Drone Racing Park” too.
From – MatsuMuckracker
Then, I noticed that the MSB placed the Drone Park item on the agenda of the MSB Assembly Meeting for May 21st with a few documents (posted at the beginning of this blog post) about the item.  So I sent another email:
May 14th

UPDATE – Today I noticed that the MSB has placed this item back on the MSB Assembly Agenda (for May 21st) – but not on the PRTAB agenda. 

Also – the information finally posted in the IM on the MSB Legislation page seems to be missing many pages. (I see a page “6 of 6” – where are pages 1 through 5?) 
To Hugh Leslie and Eric Phillips – what in the world is going on with this supposed “Drone Park” which has never been approved by either the PRTAB or the Assembly? 
It seems like you have essentially gifted a lot of acreage to Mr. Colligan’s Drone League over at Jim Creek with zero public process – and now he has set up some sort of plan to move a trail etc? 
Please post online copies of everything related to this so called project asap so everyone can review it. 
Have you asked the Butte residents or members of the Aviation Community what they think of this proposed “Drone Racing Park?? 
This is just my opinion – but this Drone Racing Park is not part of the Jim Creek approved plan AND it seems to me that former Assembly member Stephen Colligan is getting preferential treatment by the MSB staff. It seems like this “Drone Park” has been already all set up and approved and you are just trying to sneak it through without a full discussion or disclosure of the plans. 
From – MatsuMuckracker
And I sent a follow up email:
May 15th

I never did get any more information from the MSB on this. Where are pages 1 through 5? Where is the actual permit application? When did Mr. Colligan’s group offer to clear the stumps? What is the cost estimate? 

And speaking of stumps – Who paid for the initial land clearing and berm? I noticed last summer when I went over to investigate that the “drone park” is located in an area that until fairly recently was wooded.  Now it is devoid of trees but there are lots of ugly tree stumps left there. It made no sense to me that the MSB (as part of the Jim Creek upgrades) would need to clear cut a big section of the woods right next to the campground and separate the clear cut area from the campground via a big berm. 
What a coincidence that a bunch of land was clear cut and a berm was built by the MSB and NOW it is the site of the drone park!  (And if this was just a coincidence – please explain why in the world the MSB needed to clear cut a big chunk of forest right there.) 
And – has the Drone League already taken over the larger 50 acre parcel? At first, they were just using the smaller area and when this item was on the PRTAB agenda last year several times, the proposal was for them to use a much bigger amount of land. However, the proposed “Management Agreement” never did materialize so it was taken off the PRTAB agenda.  So, the PRTAB never did get to vote on anything, and now – from the paperwork filed this week and placed on the agenda of the Assembly’s May 21st meeting (see the attachments), it seems like this project has morphed into an already approved Permit allowing the Drone folks to use a bigger area and make changes to it.  
So – to summarize, my questions are:
1.  Who paid to clear cut the land in the first place and WHY was this land clear cut?  (I am a bit suspicious that the Drone League is now offering to clear up the stumps; is this because they sort of owe the MSB for doing the clear cutting for their “drone park”?) 
2.  Why isn’t the MSB allowing the PRTAB, the Butte Community Council and the Aviation Board to give their opinions on this proposed park before it is approved?
3.  Why is this just an Informational Memo – instead of an item the Assembly can VOTE on?
4.  Is the public going to be prevented from using this area unless granted permission by the Drone League?   
5.  What is the story about future infrastructure?  I saw something at one point about the Drone League planning to build some permanent infrastructure – maybe some sort of drone airport tower? 
6.  Is the drone league going to need access to electricity? 
7.  What is the length of this “permit”?  How much is Mr. Colligan’s group being charged by the MSB? 
The MSB staff really needs to put all their cards on the table and tell the public what the entire plan is here…not just release tiny bits of information at a time. 
It seems to me that there was a lot of “behind the scenes” maneuvering done here so that former Assembly Member Colligan and his group can set up their drone park.  Where was the public process? 
Also – it is important to note that Mr. Colligan doesn’t just run a non profit drone group, he also has one (or more) private for profit companies which center around Drones.  So – if his group is allowed to set up a drone park and control access to the area – is he going to be allowed to use the area for his private for profit use?  Isn’t that a conflict of interest? 
Please Advise
Here is a previous blogs post about Mr. Colligan’s “Drone Park” on MSB land:
More background:
This two page document was included as part of the May 2018 PRTAB meeting packet – but the MSB never did provide that board with any additional info and the PRTAB never had the opportunity to vote on this proposal (which has now morphed into the current Permit item.) Notice that the current Informational Memo doesn’t mention this bigger plan.
Memo 1Agenda 1b