(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)

My Turn: Tourism has destroyed the Juneau I grew up in

Following Paul Fuhs letter May 6, I would say this: I don’t know where in Alaska he grew up, but I can say with complete confidence that tourism has destroyed the Juneau I grew up with in the late ‘60s, and have known through the mid-‘90s.

In fact, the community is almost unlivable because of the costs for everything, 20 hours of noise every day, air filth, water filth, no marine moorage, sidewalks completely dominated with visitors, no boat moorage, huge sewerage and solid waste impacts, no respite for anyone anywhere, boat or no boat.

The costs and impacts boroughwide are so widespread and pervasive that they are impossible to quantify. Downtown — which once served the local marine and fishing industries, logging, and local outdoor recreational enthusiasts — is nothing more than a specially designed theme park ringed with million-dollar homes. What small-town flavor that once existed in Juneau is gone. Residents are pitted against each other over the issue of tourism because corporate tour companies and those locals that stand to gain have designed their message (sweet-flavored propaganda) to mollify Juneau residents.

Tourism has infiltrated local governing bodies and is being supported by a faction of Juneau resident-owned tour operators who are involved in CBJ government — the purpose of which is to create chaos and confusion, resulting in a helpless and hopeless feeling by many. Residents are afraid to say what they really think in fear of backlash by their fellow residents that work in, or have some investment, in tourism. Oh sure, there are those in the Juneau population that have turned the “T-menace” into a pot of gold. What also goes unsaid is that the other 95% of Juneau residents have to pay in a myriad of ways to enrich the few.

And all this nastiness is not the visitor’s fault. It is the fault of international tour ship companies, Juneau Assembly members over the years and a city manager that caters to business owners, not residents.

Please don’t misunderstand me; tourism is an industry that can improve the local economy if it had remained in a “positive” income and tolerable cost/impact mode. Juneau’s tourism has long since passed the break-even point.

I read with complete incredulity the My Turn on Nov. 22, 2023, by Win Gruening headlined “Troubling trends deserve Assembly attention.” Gruening and others have penned opinion pieces that suggest that tourism, in its current volume, is Juneau’s only economic savior. But that is completely false. It is a false economy house of cards.

I can always tell when the author of an Empire opinion piece is retired, is financially involved with Juneau tourism, owns their home outright, have a comfortable income and are not raising kids. They do not suffer from financial uncertainty. They generally vacation away from Alaska, don’t hunt for their table and don’t rely on fish much either. Wherever they are in town, either as work or residence, the drone of perpetual aircraft, the clouds of tour ship exhaust and horrible traffic congestion is not a problem. Everyone I know who grew up in Juneau and has moved away did so because of lack of affordability, few career-level jobs in which they were qualified, no place to live and, more recently (20 years), they cannot stand the inescapable impact of tourism. Regional federal offices, the U.S. Forest Service, commercial fishing, mining — what about those industries? How about people like myself that had a career in government and simply want to stay home to retire — we have paychecks.

What opinion pieces and letters do not say about the tourism industry in Juneau is the cause of incredible economic burden. Much of that burden is passed on to people, who can ill-afford to pay it, including low-income and retired folks. The CBJ has consistently lied to Juneau residents about the impacts and what could have been done to stem the growth of industrial tourism.

Yes, be rude to visitors, because there is no other way to kill this cancerous growth of the tour industry. Kill the market for the tour ship industry in Juneau. Bad juju expands rapidly on the internet.

• Dwight Williams is a former 32-year Juneau resident, CBJ land and transportation planner, and Juneau construction engineer who currently lives in Fairbanks.

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