JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has received more than 100 comments on an expansion project in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in Juneau, revealing some residents have reservations about the plans.
Expansion plans around Mendenhall Lake, the glacier and Dredge Lakes include additional visitor centers, more trails and the expansion of existing parking lots to accommodate more tourists, the Juneau Empire reported Friday.
The park is just northeast of the Juneau International Airport and the University of Alaska Southeast.
Forest Service public affairs officer Paul Robbins was not able to speak about the nature of the comments because an analysis has not yet been completed, but he said each of the 134 comments are available on the project website.
We “encourage the Forest Service to avoid a new high volume, marine transportation system on Mendenhall Lake unless it is electric-powered. We see no mention or provision for this in your conceptual drawings,” Renewable Juneau Board President Margo Waring said.
Part of the plan includes building a glacier access zone where visitors can take boats within reach of the glacier and are allowed to touch it, park officials said.
Some have argued that doing so could cause the glacier to melt faster.
“The boat-docks-remote center plan is the most absurd, expensive, foolhardy, and useless aspect of the entire project! The idea of ‘chasing the ice’ is a forlorn hope. Sadly, the glacier is melting at a rate that makes this idea impractical,” said Laurie Craig, former lead naturalist at the Mendenhall Visitor Center.
Former Mendenhall Visitor Center Director John Neary said the Forest Service should do more to highlight renewable energy efforts.
“You could have taken this opportunity to show community leadership in sustainability but instead, it looks like just another expansion of asphalt and concrete to serve an endless stream of tourists, who will cumulatively impact the natural resources negatively in the long run,” Neary said.
Others have disagreed.
“Parks and Recreation supports expansion of the MGRA to allow for continued recreational opportunities as the glacier advances. Juneau residents benefit not only from the recreational activities provided by the MGRA and facilities, but we also benefit from the economic opportunities that result from the tourism industry,” said George Schaaf, director of CBJ Parks and Recreation Department.
A draft plan is expected to be released in June followed by the final plan in September, Robbins said.