Summary: Tourism brings both economic benefits but concerning crowds and ecological issues, said a crowd of concerned Juneauites. Juneau Neighborhoods Affected by Tourism, a group of residents concerned about tourism’s impact will form steering committees to identify the most urgent issues and formulate specific changes they’d like to see the City and Borough Juneau Assembly enact.
One person in attendance suggested that tourism may be the new reality and living in Juneau may just no longer be what it was like decades ago.
His premise was rejected.
“I don’t accept that,” Terrel said. “I don’t accept that at all. Most of us came here and stay here for the quality of life. We’re the most important.”
Almost an hour into the meeting, and brainstorming for solutions has not started. The meeting’s agenda does call for coming up with ideas to address the problem and how to bring it to the attention of the Assembly.
It’s been suggested that just as some areas are zoned for industries, some areas should be zoned for tourism, so that some areas can be preserved from visitors.
Attendees complain that during peak tourism season, crowds cause them to avoid points of interest including the Mendenhall Glacier and downtown.
Robert Sewell, President of Douglas Island Neighbors Association, said his neighborhood is much less impacted than some other neighborhoods.
Additionally, Sewell said many working in the tourism industry are doing their best and do a lot of good.
However, he said tourism does present challenges that should be anticipated.
“We need to be out ahead of it before it happens,” Sewell said.
FYI: Public library WiFi policy means live updates likely will not be able to last for the duration of the meeting, but should last until about 6 p.m.
“Everybody on Thane has a story about how they’ve almost killed someone on this road,” said one resident, of crowds on the road. “Someone will get hurt in this corridor.”
Another added the fear of striking a pedestrian with their car is an everyday concern.
Someone else is concerned that they will be struck with a car.
Carrying capacity and the need for a strict limit on the number of cruise ships allowed to stop at Juneau in one day have already been suggested.
“We’ve gotten to the point where tourists are so overwhelming, people will not look at me and will push me into the street,” said a resident. “Living on Basin Road, I sometimes have a nice garden, and people think they have the right to go and touch my plants because they want to take a picture of themselves holding the flower that they like. It’s just unpleasant. This can’t go on.”
Triem said she has some equity concerns with the conversations.
“I don’t care about equity,” was the response.
Organizers said they would like to restrict comments to just residents in affected areas for the first part of the meeting.
“We’re not here to say,’Go away,’ we’re here to say, ‘What can we do?’” Terrel said.
She added the Assembly has heard from her a lot over the past few years, but in her opinion has not addressed the perceived problem.
Metcalfe said she was displeased by the number of industry representatives in attendance.
She asked those who don’t need to be there to leave to free up space for residents.
Bob Janes, Gastineau Guiding owner, took some exception with the invitation to leave and said he was here to listen to concerns and potentially help address them.
A community meeting about the impact of tourism attracted a crowd of about 40 to the Downtown Public Library.
It was organized by Kim Metcalfe and Paula Terrel specifically to address the impact of traffic in the Basin Road and Thane neighborhoods, but concerns from other residential areas will be heard.
Assembly members including Carole Triem, Michelle Bonnet Hale and Mary Becker are present, so too are tourism industry leaders such as Travel Juneau President and CEO Liz Perry and Tourism Best Management Practices Coordinator and Princess Cruises Director of Shore Operations Kirby Day.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.