Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File                                 Visitors line up to view Juneau’s downtown harbor in August 2015. A task force that is considering how Juneau manages tourism is expected to finalize recommendations this month.

Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File Visitors line up to view Juneau’s downtown harbor in August 2015. A task force that is considering how Juneau manages tourism is expected to finalize recommendations this month.

Tourism task force favors limits via infrastructure

Members say hard cap on visitors is unlikely

  • Ben Hohenstatt Juneau Empire
  • Tuesday, March 10, 2020 8:30am
  • NewsLocal News

Juneau’s tourism task force is close to making its official recommendations, and multiple task force members said a hard cap on the number of visitors to the capital city is not expected to be part of the plan.

The City and Borough of Juneau Visitor Industry Task Force Sunday had a work session to provide instruction to city staff to help finish drafting recommendations, and a final draft is likely to be approved before the March 23 Committee of the Whole meeting, said Task Force Chair and Assembly member Carole Triem in a phone interview.

“I think that the task force is pretty much in agreement that a hard cap is not legal and not practical,” Triem said.

Instead, she said the task force members generally favor recommendations that would use infrastructure to limit the number of tourists coming to Juneau. Additionally, she and other task force members said some recommendations will be changes that could be implemented as soon as this summer.

“In general, a discussion was the city would just become more involved in how the ships are berthing and working through the port agent,” said task force member Kirby Day, who also coordinates the city’s Tourism Best Management Practices program.

Triem said that could mean coordinating things so that larger, fuller ships are berthed closer to town, which could cut down on congestion. Day said it could also mean further separation between the arrival of ships.

Day, Triem and task force member Paula Terrel each said they were pleased with the task force’s process and progress. The 10-member task force was created in late 2019 by Mayor Beth Weldon to answer questions about managing Juneau’s growing visitor industry. This tourist season, 1.44 million visitors expected to come to Southeast communities.

Terrel, who has been critical of the tourism industry in the past and previously expressed concerns about the makeup of the task force, said she process exceeded her expectations and everyone’s input was considered.

She, Triem and Day each said public comment was incorporated into drafting the recommendations. In some cases, they said, people may recognize the wording from their comments incorporated directly into the final draft.

“It went really well,” Triem said. “I think this is an example of public process working very smoothly or working very well.”

For example, both the subport property recently purchased by Norwegian Cruise Lines and the idea of ship-free days are expected to be mentioned in the final report based on public interest, task force members said.

[Norwegian Cruise Lines buys downtown waterfront property]

“It wasn’t one of our charging questions, but the task force really wanted to talk about the NCL subport dock,” Triem said.

Regarding what recommendations the task force had for development of the dock, Triem said electrification is expected to be part of the plan.

Day said ship-free days are something that would need to be decided on by the Assembly and could be difficult to achieve because of private docks, but he wanted it mentioned since it was frequently mentioned by the public.

The task force members said they were eager for the final draft to be prepared and to make their recommendations.

“It is not perfect, but it’s the best we could do with such a diversity of people, and we all had to compromise,” Terrel said.

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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