USFS Mendenhall Glacier Planning (2016-2018)

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Month: April 2017

Meeting #4 Summary

On the evening of Wednesday, April 26, approximately 60 people attended the fourth meeting for the MGRA/MGVC planning project hosted at the visitor center. This meeting summarized the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area (MGRA) planning process to date and kicked off the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Unit (MGVC) master planning effort.

Brad Orr (District Ranger) and John Neary (MGVC Director) welcomed attendees and gave a summary of the larger two year planning effort for the MGRA and the MGVC.

Chris Mertl with Corvus Design gave a brief overview of the larger MGRA planning effort and the need to create a long term vision for the area. He introduced the master planning efforts for the MGVC Unit which focuses on making short term facility recommendations based on the MGRA long range planning effort and work to be developed at the MGVC.

As part of the introduction, the public was asked to introduce themselves and to indicate “if you were to bring a cruise ship passenger to the MGVC Unit, where is the first place you would take them to highlight the unit’s facilities and opportunities.” Responses were varied and all facilities within would be considered highlights of the MGVC Unit. Those with the most responses include:

  • Visitor Center
  • Steep Creek Trail (especially bear viewing area)
  • Trail of Time
  • Nugget Falls and Nugget Falls Trail
  • Photo Point Trail
  • Mendenhall Lake (especially in winter)

Public Input

The meeting included two exercises to receive public input on the MGVC master planning effort and to kick off this phase of work. Attendees were asked to break into smaller groups of 6-8 and to work together to discuss opportunities to incorporate innovation into the facility planning for the MGVC and to also identify areas within the MGVC that were currently being impacted or could possibly be impacted related to facilities, visitor experience and the surrounding resources.

Exercise #1: Innovation

Attendees were asked to break into small groups or round-tables to discuss opportunities for incorporating innovation into the planning effort for the MGVC. Individual tables were set up with their own area of focus and participants were encouraged to provide input at the table of most interest but to also circulate and visit other groups to provide input. The innovation areas of focus were divided into the following groups:

  • Sustainable Buildings
  • Transit and Transportation
  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Renewable Energy
  • Interpretation
  • Recreation

Once the ideas were presented, the groups were asked to identify those that they believed were the highest priority innovation opportunities. A summary of the innovation listed is found below. Those with an asterisk (*) were identified as priorities but does not diminish the importance of the other innovation listed.

Sustainable Buildings
  • Design building as active sustainable displays*
  • Solar panels on roofs is only to set an example*
  • Collect gutter water for toilet flushing, energy generation, hydro power*
  • Use Nugget Falls to generate power (maybe further upstream)
  • Use water flowing into toilets to generate electrify
  • Hiker/biker campsite at campground
  • Winter/local coffee shop
  • Store body heat from tourists to use year round
  • Cycle gray water through a green roof
Transit and Transportation
  • Off site transit center with circulator to the area*
  • Provide peddle powered options*
  • Do away with buses Juneau wide by working with CBJ on light rail studies to show ridership is the limited factor to development, so require tour operators to use light rail. 1 million plus visitor is twice the amount needed to fund development*
  • Make the walk from the buses to visitor center spectacular: maybe raised walkway with view, electric or peddle powered boats to get to now receded glacier, access to rock point to access West glacier interpretive trail
  • Electric buses on a time schedule, similar to Denali Park
  • Quiet and pollution free busses
  • Charging stations for electric vehicles
  • Tram to upper elevators “to the ice”
  • Boat to Satellite Visitor Center on Rocky Point, or gondola from current visitor center to Rocky Point
  • Wildlife under/over passes
  • Provide bus drop and load route separate from all other traffic
  • East Glacier trailing head parking off site
  • Circulator brings folks to Visitors Center
Sustainable Tourism
  • Build and maintain a hut that hikers and overnight in (like the Alps) a series of hut to huts overlooking glacier*
  • Plan for increased interest in wildlife-sustainable management*
  • Limit number of transported visitor per day*
  • Develop hiker/biker campsite at campground (see Oregon State Park or some forest models – pay $5-10/person for shared area)*
  • Carrying capacity is exceeded: reduces quality experience so limit tourist and amount of time to experience place*
  • Control noise to maintain wildlife viewing opportunities, natural soundscape, reduced stress*
  • As glacier recedes, focus more on wildlife, bears, fish, birds, etc.
  • Consider a second site with viewing area of the Taku glacier
  • Rock climbing
  • Electric launches for transport across lake to ranger station and access to glacier.
  • Once ice is no long on lake, build a road on the left side for electric shuttle to ice interpretive center ice edge
  • Clean gavel out on Nugget Dam, install small hydro power station to make MGVC self sustaining for power
  • Spur trail of East Glacier to next ridge (bridge rebuilt over Nugget Creek) so glacier will be in view 50+ more years
  • Dispersed visitor areas
  • Provide new access point to view glacier that is either close or above
  • Put a Forest Service cabin on the rock peninsula with a view of the glacier
  • Information on mining ruins and activities on trails
  • Limit the season
  • Charging station for electric buses
  • Increase winter tourism
Renewable Energy
  • The primary reason for not developing light rail between the valley and town is insufficient ridership. Partner with CBJ to develop light rail to the glacier to do away with bus traffic, allowing the 1 million visitor to pay/support essential changes*
  • Rentable bicycle stations at 2-5 central spots (like Seattle has): airport, waterfront, MGVC*
  • Solar on roof of visitor center*
  • Heat pumps*
  • Clean out Nugget Creek dam and install 4-6 inch line to power station to make MGVC self sustaining for power*
  • Locally powered electric tram or other transportation to get people up high and close enough to be wowed by seeing and feeling (smell, sound, etc.) of the glacier
  • Off site transit center with electric shuttles to visitor area
  • Accumulated energy pressure pads in high visitor density areas – transfer energy from pressure to storage at high densities and create a lot of power
  • Have a coffee/pie shop and then do “Coffee with a Ranger” and learn cool stuff while enjoying you latte*
  • Virtual tourist of surface and cave to preserve for future generations*
  • Remote control cameras that are web based*
  • Waterfowl nesting (East) including “chick cam”*
  • Phenology trail – allow tourist to see an area over the course of years on their phones and add their own photos/entries. Focus on both westerns and local natural history of species*
  • Enhance opportunities for personal connections
  • Beaver-Salmon ecology
  • More interpretive signs using a variety of media in nontraditional ways
  • Maintain/improve remote camera projects: fish cam, beaver cam, gull cam, bear cam, etc. Real time as well as recorded clips, night camera, etc.
  • Guided wildlife viewing
  • Develop and app for diving into details of surrounding areas: flora and fauna, interviews, history, etc.
  • Build a classroom for field trips
  • Bike trail separate from roads and sidewalks in woods*
  • Launch cross country skiing from East side*
  • Video location with web cams for use with phones*
  • Tram to top of glacier*
  • Leaving the bus parking dirt covered
  • Rock climbing
  • Mountain biking trail times
  • Bridge over Nugget Falls with trail
  • Spur off East Glacier bridge over creek to next ridge to see glacier 50+ years
  • Tethered hot air balloons (10 min trips) for spectacular photo views
  • More winter recreation: Back country skiing, cross country skiing, skating, snowshoe rental booth, ice caves, aurora watching, refreshment stand
  • Giant Zamboni machine
  • World class pie! Available year round
  • Develop hiker/biker campsite at campground
  • Allow for parking lot parking after midnight on big northern lights viewing nights.

Each group presented this lists to others in attendance.

Exercise #2: Areas of Impact

Attendees were again asked to break into small groups or round-tables to identify areas that are currently being impacted within the MGVC or could be impacted. Discussion was categorized into three areas of impacts. Impacts to facilities, impacts to visitor experience, and impacts to the natural resources/environment. Impacts were located and notated on large scale maps of the MGVC.  Participants were asked to identify the severity of the existing impact (1-minor, 2-moderate, 3-significant) and to identify the corrective action for each: minor construction, major construction, maintenance or management. Images of the session and maps created are found below.


The meeting concluded by thanking those who participated and directing attendees to this website for project updates and announcements.

Meeting/Charrette 4 Announced: Wednesday, April 26th at 5:00 pm at MGVC

The fourth meeting for the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area planning effort will be on Wednesday, April 26th at 5:00 pm at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

The fourth meeting will provide the public the opportunity to understand the planning process to date on the MGRA Draft Conceptual Development Plan and how the planning team is using quantification methods to provide the desired visitor experience while protecting the MGRA’s resources and to provide a long term vision within a changing landscape.

The meeting will also introduce the planning effort for the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Unit which is just getting underway.

We hope to see you.