North Douglas residents want the city’s ski lodge to remain a quiet place in the summertime.
The handful of North Douglas Neighborhood Association members who attended a community meeting at Eaglecrest Ski Area Monday night weren’t wholly opposed to the ski area’s proposed summertime activity increase, but they did raise some concerns.
“I’m sort of tired of tourism taking over every quiet place in this community,” said Merry Ellefson. “I have asked myself honestly, and I don’t know the answer, would I rather have Eaglecrest shutdown or would I rather have it be another hotbed of industrial tourism?”
Eaglecrest General Manager Dave Scanlan said he understood concerns about crowding and a plan that would introduce a new gondola lift, mountain coaster, rope course, mountain bike trails and more to the municipally owned ski area.
Scanlan gave a short presentation to the several residents present that outlined why increased summer revenue would be a good thing for Eaglecrest.
For one, he said it would be a dependable source of income that could make up for irregular snow patterns that can bring less skiers to the mountain during the winter. It could also help make the operation less dependent on the $900,000 City and Borough of Juneau money and maybe provide generate enough revenue to invest back into the community and provide increased wages to workers.
“My staff hasn’t had a pay increase in six years,” Scanlan said. “There’s just no financial capacity.”
Also, he said some of the proposed $35 million project would be invested in improving and expanding hiking trails that are popular with locals. That idea was popular with those in attendance.
“I look forward to more of the hiking trails, particularly if they’re not too steep,” said Margo Waring.
Waring said she hopes Juneau’s senior population will be kept in mind if and when trails are improved.
Residents also said they hope there are ways an expanded Eaglecrest could benefit Juneauites or partner with other local entities.
One example was the suggestion that the Audubon Society could lead birding walks.
“I love that idea,” Scanlan said.
He was also asked if the summer infrastructure is something that could be used by students during field trips.
Scanlan said he didn’t know why that wouldn’t be the case.
Both Scanlan and residents acknowledged increased summer attendance would lead to an increase in the number of buses on the North Douglas Highway.
Scanlan estimated there could be as many as 18 additional buses carrying people to Eaglecrest.
Residents said they would prefer if the buses were smaller, electric vehicles.
“It’s the great big huge ones that cause problems for people that drive on the highway,” Waring said. “Being a leader in that (using electric vehicles for tourism) would be really great.”
Scanlan was asked if there is a planned cap for the number of visitors or buses Eaglecrest would allow. He said that’s a good question, but did not provide specific numbers.
However, Scanlan said he’s committed to the idea of maintaining Eaglecrest’s appeal to Juneauites.
“I really do want it to be like, ‘Eaglecrest, where locals come to play,’” Scanlan said. “Seeing your friends up here might make the other commercial visitors fade away.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.