Maintenance or new facilities?: Juneau weighs in on Parks and Rec master plan

Juneauites have weighed in on what they want the future of Parks and Recreation services in the city to look like, checking the second box in the department’s two-year effort to develop a new direction.

Parks and Rec released its 172-page “What We Heard” report before the new year. The document is the product of phone and web surveys conducted September through December, where Parks and Rec gauged local interest in Juneau’s changing facilities and programs.

The surveys put the finger on the community’s recreation pulse, according to Parks and Rec Director Kirk Duncan.

“Basically we created a baseline: What does the public want us to look like in the next 10 years?” Duncan said.

Parks and Rec identified hiking as the “overwhelmingly most popular recreational activity” in Juneau. In the past 12 months, 89 percent of Juneau residents used local trails for walking, hiking, running, cross country skiing, biking and other forms of recreation.

Seventy-eight percent of Juneauites ranked city trails as high or very high value to the community. Due to heavy usage and cost-efficiency, trails will likely be a priority compared to other high-cost public requests like a new ice arena in the Mendenhall Valley or turf baseball and softball fields at Adair Kennedy.

“That conversation boils down to economics,” Duncan said. “I think it’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to build any new facilities; I think we need to maintain our existing facilities. Sure, wouldn’t it be nice to have a second sheet of ice in the valley, but economically that’s just not going to happen. We don’t spend a lot of money on trails and trail development and that’s something we’ll have to take a look at. We may need to partner with the Forest Service, the state of Alaska, and make a really good system even better.”

The creation of the “What We Heard” document was the second in a five-step master planning process expected to culminate in the spring of 2018. Parks and Rec hasn’t updated their guiding document since 1997.

Though the public will have several more opportunities to guide the process before Parks and Rec takes its plan to the city Assembly, Parks and Rec has already identified 18 “emerging themes” for which locals expressed the most concern.

While many stated a need for fiscal responsibility, 94 percent of adults in Juneau reported that recreation programs and facilities are a somewhat or very important use of public funds. Seventeen percent of adult residents who did not utilize Parks and Rec facilities and services cited money as a barrier to participation.

“I think we need to do a better job at catering to some of our more economically-challenged people,” Duncan said. “We do have some underserved people, and we realized that, so I think we need to come up with some programs to serve those folks.”

A number of residents stressed the importance of additional programming for seniors, with specific requests citing the importance of Augustus Brown Swimming Pool to local seniors.

In coming years, the pool will require $4.5 million in structural repairs. Fifty-two percent of residents rated Augustus Brown Pool as having very high or high community value and 28 percent of households reported using the facility in the past 12 months.

In terms of new facilities, Parks and Rec identified strong support for turf baseball and softball fields at Adair Kennedy Park.

A number of commenters supported an addition to Treadwell Ice Arena while others suggested building a new ice facility located in the Mendenhall Valley. Many also expressed interest in summer access to Treadwell Arena.

The phone surveys, conducted by the McDowell Group, are scientifically valid, meaning they represent a statistically-significant and representative selection of Juneau’s population; in other words, the phone survey could be said to represent a “mini Juneau” made up of 516 citizens.

Duncan said paying for the phone surveys was important to Parks and Rec’s effort to gauge opinion from a diverse set of citizens who may not always show up to public meetings.

The next step in the master plan process will be for a committee of citizens to comb through the “What We Heard” document and make recommendations. That committee will be tasked with reconciling the public’s contradicting requests.

“There are a bunch of people who want more facilities and a bunch of people who say, ‘don’t build any more facilities.’ There are lots of conflicts,” Duncan said. “A committee of citizens will go through the (What We Heard) document and make recommendations. Those recommendations will then go out to the public, so there will be another round of public input.”

The application process for the Parks and Rec Master Plan Advisory Committee is now open to the public with applications due before Jan. 24. The department is looking for a representative committee of locals whose primary responsibility will be to serve as an objective voice of the public. Those interested can visit www.placespeak.com/cbjparkrec for more information and to apply.

Parks and Rec will take the public’s final recommendations into consideration when drafting their master plan. The draft plan will then be presented to the City Assembly Planning Commission, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and finally to the City Assembly itself for adoption in spring of 2018.

The idea behind such a long process is simple, Duncan said: the department wants to give itself ample time to polish a finished product before presenting it to the Assembly.

More in News

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 22

The most recent state and local numbers.

A Coast Guard Station Juneau 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Auke Bay during an exercise in 2018. A response boat similar to the one in the photo was struck by a laser near Ketchikan on Saturday, Jan. 17, prompting an investigation into the crime. (Lt. Brian Dykens / U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard wants information after laser pointed at boat

“Laser strikes jeopardize the safety of our boat crews…”

The valleys of Jim River and Prospect Creek in northern Alaska, where an official thermometer registered Alaska’s all-time low of minus 80 degrees F on Jan. 23, 1971. Photo by Ned Rozell
Alaska’s all-time cold record turns 50

The camp was there to house workers building the trans-Alaska pipeline

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Jan. 21

The most recent state and local numbers.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses the public during a virtual town hall on Sept. 15, 2020 in Alaska. ( Courtesy Photo / Austin McDaniel, Office of the Governor)
Dunleavy pitches dividend change amid legislative splits

No clear direction has emerged from lawmakers.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom, right, wearing a bib with ExxonMobil lettering on it, congratulates Peter Kaiser on his win in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor as the Iditarod prepares for a scaled-back version of this year’s race because of the pandemic, officials said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. ExxonMobil confirmed to The Associated Press that the oil giant will drop its sponsorship of the race. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)
ExxonMobil becomes latest sponsor to sever Iditarod ties

The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor.

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 22, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, orange, isolated from a patient.	(THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/National Institutes of Health)
State reports 24 COVID-19 deaths

Only 1 of the deaths happened recently, according to the state.

Most Read