One thing you have to say for Docks & Harbors —they never give up on a bad idea. The “new” plan for the North Douglas Boat Launch is a case in point. Unconstrained by most anything except a desire to build more, D&H never give up trying to get their way against public opposition. This time it is a vast expansion of the NDBL. Around a decade ago, a plan exactly like their current one was brought out and faced opposition so strong, D&H put it in a file drawer and concentrated instead on Auke Bay. Public feedback at the time was that the NDBL would benefit from a few changes: a second launch on the other side of the existing dock to give separate in/out access (the cause of current snarls), a kayak launch on the near side of the parking lot, straightening of the elbow access by reinstalling the access covered when the highway was resurfaced by DOTPF and more parking by widening the uphill car lane.
D&H operates in a planning vacuum—their “plans” are made without consideration of existing plans, uses, zoning, traffic and accident potential, carrying capacity and , in this case, the current recreational uses of the area in general (this is the most used piece of waterfront in Juneau for bikers, walkers, photographers, picnickers and even fireworks). These uses would be negatively impacted by the D&H design. (And don’t fall for their “this is just preliminary” : D&H doesn’t listen to input, otherwise the design would have changed significantly since its last lambasting). What were the strikes against this resurrected design: 24-hour lighting, air, noise and water pollution, negative impacts on resident eagle populations, too much fill that would impact fish, loss of beaches, increased traffic and accident potential on a highway with hundreds of driveways and many pedestrians and bikers, impacts to current business/tourism/recreational uses — our companies use this for kayaks, bike trips, fishing, sightseeing., adverse impacts on seals, otters, marmots, sea lions and whales.
Who does D&H think will benefit? Perhaps, D&H answers to the few large boat owners who think Auke Bay boat launch is too far away — not that Statter is inadequate after all the millions poured into it, but inconvenient. Owners who would prefer to inch across the bridge or boats moored in Douglas no longer able to cross the bar? Tourism and whale watching business owners who want to spread out their buses and boats?
The “fixes” that were identified a decade ago and were answers to actual problems and right-sized to the location are still the changes that make sense, offering to end bottlenecks, separate kayakers and provide some more accessible parking.
• Margo Waring resides in Juneau.