USFS Mendenhall Glacier Planning (2016-2018)

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Month: August 2017

Meeting #5 Summary

On the evening of Tuesday, August 22nd meeting #5 was hosted at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library starting at 7:05 pm. Over 35 members of the general public attended the meeting that focused on how to bring innovation to the MGRA and MGVC planning effort and to set benchmarks or criteria for success for the project. The meeting was facilitated by Amanda Happe of Bruce Mau Design and included the participation of the planning team’s subject matter experts that included transportation in national parks, sustainable tourism, economics, sustainable buildings, renewable energy, visitor center planning and others. Also in attendance were representatives of the US Forest Service.

The welcome was provided by Brad Orr, Juneau District Ranger and was followed by a summary of the meeting agenda and desired outcomes by Amanda Happe.

Attendees were asked to join one of three round table discussions that were of interested to them. The round tables were broken into:

  • Transportation (transit, trails, and roads)
  • Sustainability (buildings, energy, transit, and natural resources)
  • Tourism and Economics (visitor industry, local visitation, economics and visitor trends)

Community Criteria Build

Brief presentations were made by the subject matter experts to the round tables to summarize the ideas and concepts that had been developed previously during the day. Included in the summary was a review of the project “Success Criteria” to set benchmarks that the project could be measured against. The round tables were each asked to prioritize what they felt were the most important or interesting criteria.

Below is a summary of each group’s community criteria priorities.


Highest Priorities
  • Renewable, energy efficient buildings and transportation
  • Preserve the sense of place
  • Access the ice
Secondary Priorities
  • Enhance Juneau as an attractive place to live (in addition to visit)
  • Serve both locals and visitors
  • Dispersed access to and within MGRA due to increase in visitors
  • Enhance winter access and recreation opportunities
  • Community support
Other Priorities
  • Build on the idea of providing access and experiences for all types of people
  • Create an authentic Alaskan experience
  • Connect people to the place in positive emotional ways
  • Focus on authentic experience that residents would be proud to take
    their guests to, and to use themselves.
  • Stimulate to explore, do more, and return to MGRA
  • Balance future planning with current issues.
  • Embrace disappearing ice and commit to sustainable solutions
  • Make the experience better for the wildlife as well as the people
  • Take into account visitor industry trends vs. perception
  • Integrate wild
New Priorities Discussed by the Group
  • Renewable Energy – Transportation must be based on renewable energy
  •  Must address transport TO and WITHIN MGRA
  • Connect new cross-country ski trails to existing transportation
  • Be a transportation solution from the cruise ship docks
  • Consider future winter use. “Chase snow” (ski trails, sledding, etc.)
  • Access to longer/safer hikes/experiences. Get people out for longer, but at the same time protect the wilderness. (Criteria – can I stay out 3 days, camp a different place each night, and not get lost, not damage the wilderness, mauled by a bear, or hurt habitat)
  • Expand the geographic boundaries of the MGRA
  • Number of people that can get on ice and to ice caves, but keep caves
    spiritual (not too crowded)
  • Adding formal communication about conditions/lake ice safety


Highest Priority
  • Be a value to locals and visitors
Secondary Priorities
  • Address carrying capacity, visitor experience, resource protection
  • Have a local voice/perspective and have a cultural piece about Alaska Native relationship with the land
  • Continued food containment and wildlife. 50 bears are not habituated in the area (assuming food shop is added). Protection of wildlife
  • Take into consideration local use of MGRA
Other Priorities
  • Respect indigenous rights and traditions by incorporating input
  • Equally inspire visitors and be of equal quality and beauty to the place itself.
  • Energy neutral – but exemplary in tech leadership (all electrical from renewable sources). Enhancement of sustainability in holistic manner
  • Improve Steep Creek fish access to spawning areas. Fish = Bears = Visitors. Get rid of red and gray culverts.
New Priorities Discussed By the Group
  • Respect local recreational use of area year-round
  • To have set times of operation – Bus lot close at 7:30 (posted time)
  • The process itself validates the importance of local input
  • Verified & noted as a select experience that fundamentally changes a preconceived mindset
  • Encourage local usage, even during the busy tourist season (ie limiting trail usage of Gastineau bridges)
  • Leverage opportunities. Be truly innovative, supporting Alaskan leadership. Be representative of innovative approach.


Highest Priorities
  • Be financially sustainable through user fees, donations, grants, and partnerships. Capital investments may be partially funded through appropriations.
  • Minimize ecosystem impacts
Secondary Priorities
  • Reduce visitor congestion on trails and parking
  • Provide education
  • Any improvements must benefit multiple user groups
  • Improved infrastructure must improve interconnectivity of facilities
  • Each improvement must include ways to reduce dependence on outside utilities: reduce electrical by 50%.
  • Leverage tech
  • Zero waste/environment building standards (min. LEED Gold)
  • Reduce trail congestion by 50%
Other Priorities
  • Increase amenities and decrease environmental impacts compared to current operation.
Other Priorities Discussed By the Group
  • Easy access to different “tiers” of experiences (step off the bus and see something great up to a more wilderness experience). 85% of organized tour visitors participate
  • Incorporate the expected “stereotypical” tourists 30-50 years from now for at least 50% of our visitors. Technology, poor physical shape, general lack of nature
  • Spread visitors out more for a quieter summer experience. 50% less people at main parking lot.
  • Internalize costs of development and equity; Pay to play.
  • Include good wayfinding to help first-time visitors plan and safely experience the area; Signs.
  • Be scalable over 10-20 years. Phases.
  • 50% increase in engagement activities. Special walking/biking tours; Volksmarch, holiday specific, scavenger hunts…..
  • Be in line with what Juneau overall has in mind for tourism growth.
  •  Leverage existing and future resources (Capital Transit, AEL&P, DOT&PF, Trails, etc.). 100% connectivity.
  •  Be so amazing that Congress will provide more funding!
  • Expand variety of education: all levels get feedback directly. Give online classes, surveys, letters from users, kiosks with interactive (buttons to push) as you leave.
  • Find 10 more ways to generate revenue. Expand opportunities for visitor to spend money on wide variety of things (more specific tours, lots of souvenirs, special videos or lectures, view glacier art to buy). National Park connections.
  • Provide routes for wildlife that are separated from human traffic.
  • Have good cell phone coverage for all users everywhere in MGRA.
  • Increase capacity for residents and visitors while making it feel less crowded.

Ideas 2.0

Earlier in the day “Implementation Ideas” were generated by the three groups. These earlier generated ideas were called Ideas 1.0. The public was asked to review and then select one or two of these ideas that they thought should be further refined and to improve upon them to create Ideas 2.0.

Below is a summary of each group’s ideas for innovation.


  • Chase the Ice (Use transportation to tell climate change story)
  • MGRA Light Rail (Encourage use of public transit; Integrated transportation from downtown to MGRA; Light rail or bus powered by hydro power)
  • Hut System/Multi-Day Access (Expanding access while emphasizing safety/smart decisions. Make it easy for people to navigate)
  • Mount Bullard or other mountain tram to glacier or new visitor center
  • Signs and wayfinding (Better signs to let guests have optimal experience)
  • Mobility (Transport to Nugget Falls – moving walkway)
  • Restore natural course of Steep Creek and create wildlife underpass
  • Keep new visitor center down low, provide aerial tram/train to reach vantage point for ice
  • Redesign trails for bear viewing upstream of the road to better manage people
  • An east to west transport station on Mendenhall Lake
  • Encourage People to Get Away from Crowds (Have areas that are easy to access, but have limited access. Lead “solo” experiences)


  • Protect local experience
  • “Huts” as Nodes – Local berry recipes; Local fish prep; Native handcrafts; Folklore/dancing; Artist-in-Residence
  • Use reconfigured bus-loading area as a ground source heat pump surface loop.
  • Dispersal of congestion (Prefer limiting tourism activities to one side of the glacier)
  • Experience is Balance.


  • Culture/Infrastructure/Sustainability (Similar awesome windows)
  • Economics of a happy visitor (Easy photo points; virtual or actual wildlife viewing is almost guaranteed; don’t feel nickeled and dimed (pay for extras only); bathrooms – lots)
  • Renewable energy (Nugget Creek hydro, ground source heat pump, etc.)
  • Increase Multi-use Trails; Diverse Trails Drive Economic Development (Rentals, guided hikes, hike-in ice climbing)
  • USFS, cruise ship operators, and City should cooperate in constructing electric light rail from downtown docks to glacier. This could help to subsidize city-wide light rail, reduce traffic, and reduce pollution.
  • More Revenue from Visitors (Specialize tours; fancy videos to see; lots of souvenirs; Glacier art museum entrance fee; lectures by visiting celebrities/experts; fundraiser hikes)

We Value

The public participated in a quick shout out exercise to identify pairs of values in which one “wins out” over the other. The values are shown below.

No Matter What

Each participant was then asked to complete a confidential “No matter what” do’s and don’t card to capture the most critical items or issues to create a successful MGRA and MGVC planning effort. By not presenting these to the public allowed participants to voice their thoughts. These ideas are being reviewed and will provide insight to the planning team and US Forest Service.

Closing Remarks

There was a brief Q&A session that explained next steps and overall project schedule. With the conclusion of the Q&A session, Brad Orr provided the closing  remarks and thanked everyone for their participation. The meeting was concluded at 8:50.

Innovation Week Workshop Summary

Tuesday, August 22nd a day long stakeholder meeting was held at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center on the Juneau campus. Nearly 40 invited stakeholders attended including permit holders, local and state government agencies, cruise ship operators, transportation operators, environmental/conservation groups, education institutes, youth and wilderness programs, economic development groups, tourism marketing, cultural and heritage organizations, and other community groups. Also in attendance was key US Forest Service staff.

The meeting was facilitated by Amanda Happe of Bruce Mau Design and included the participation of the planning team’s subject matter experts that included transportation in national parks, sustainable tourism, economics, sustainable buildings, renewable energy, visitor center planning and others.

The welcome was provided by James King, Forest Service Regional Director of Mineral, Lands and Recreation and was followed by a summary of the meeting agenda and desired outcomes by Amanda Happe.

Stakeholders were asked to join one of three round table discussions that were of interested to them. The round tables were broken into:

  • Tourism and Economics (visitor industry, local visitation, economics and visitor trends)
  • Transportation (transit, trails, and roads)
  • Sustainability (buildings, energy, transit, and natural resources)

The stakeholders worked and shared ideas while completing over ten exercises over the course of the day. The results of each are captured below in the images. These exercises lead to the generation of two key summaries:

  • Criteria for Success
  • Idea 1.0

Working with the subject matter experts, criteria of success established benchmarks or quantifiable targets that the project could be weighed against. Each of the three groups developed their own criteria for success for the project.

The groups also generated their ideas for innovation called Ideas 1.0. Again the stakeholders and subject matter experts worked collaboratively to develop a full range of ideas for the planning effort related to their group interest.

Tourism and Economics




The content from the Criteria for Success and Ideas 1.0 formed the basis of discussion by the public at Meeting #5 held that evening at the Mendenhall Valley Library. The public refined  this material to generate community driven criteria for success and further develop ideas to create Ideas 2.0. These can be found in the Meeting #5 summary.

Closing Remarks

James King provided the closing remarks and thanked everyone for their participation.

Innovation Meeting: Subject Matter Experts

An important component of our Innovation meeting is including Subject Matter Experts to provide international and national insight for the MGRA planning. We are very excited to have their participation as part of Meeting #5 and hope you will join us for this interactive meeting with public. The meeting is on Tuesday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. A short bio for each of the Subject Matter Experts is found below.

Sustainable Tourism
Rachel Dodds, PhD, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Rachel is a Professor at Ryerson University and the Director of the Hospitality and Tourism Research Association. Rachel is a specialist in the field of sustainable tourism who has over 20 years of experience within the tourism sector. She has worked on a number of projects worldwide in sustainable tourism, climate change, eco/adventure tourism, research and marketing. Rachel holds a PhD in sustainable tourism and policy from the UK and a Masters degree in tourism and business administration from Australia. She is currently a board member for Transportation Options, was a past board member for Canada’s first climate change and tourism NGO. Rachel has a passion for change and making tourism more sustainable. She is an expert in sustainable tourism understanding the need to optimize and manage man-made and natural risks for tourism.

Brian Vander Naald, PhD, University of Alaska Southeast

Brian is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Alaska Southeast and holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Miami University (Ohio), an M.A. in Economics from the University of Montana, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Oregon. He taught and conducted research in the Raymond F. Mikesell Lab for Environmental and Resource Economics at the University of Oregon. He has recently expanded his focus to include Natural Resource and Environmental Economics, Ecological Economics, and an interdisciplinary approach to Climate Change. His research agenda has evolved to include using various non-market valuation techniques to examine under-studied Ecosystem Services including glacier ecosystems and recently evaluated the recreation value of the Juneau area glacier ecosystems.

Renewable Energy
Alec Mesdag, Director of Energy Services, AVISTA, Juneau

Alec holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Oregon State University. He currently serves as Vice President & Director of Energy Services for Alaska Electric Light & Power. In his current role he manages demand-side energy programs for the utility, helping to influence customer actions to optimize the use of energy in Juneau. He has been actively engaged with the MGVC to investigate alternative power sources for the facility with a focus on looking at the entire energy needs and strategies of the facility from heating and cooling to illumination and transportation modes. He is involved in the community’s effort in electrifying Juneau’s transportation network including private vehicles, coaches and watercraft.

Transit Systems for Parks
Paul Jewel, Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates, San Francisco, CA

Paul Jewel is a principal transportation planner with over 20 years of experience. Mr. Jewel brings a planning approach that balances the need to effectively handle the high volume of coach visitors with the need to minimize the negative impacts of buses and maximize the passenger experience. His experience includes improving the arrival experience, loading and unloading procedures and facilities, and specifying vehicle types including size and fuel type. His also specializes in community wide transportation planning and his firm recently completed the Juneau Transit Plan. Over the last decade Mr. Jewel has tended to direct most of his efforts towards demand and service studies for the National Parks Service (NPS) including work at Zion, Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks and his studies are very relevant to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area.

Sustainable Building Design
Brad Lilijequist, International Living Future Institute, Seattle, WA

Brad directs the Living Community Challenge and Net Zero Energy Programs for the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). ILFI is reinventing the human world to operate comfortably without fossil fuels and the city to be a place of ideal human habitat; maximizing human happiness and fruitfulness while benefiting the planet.
As director of the Institute’s Net Zero Energy and Living Community programs, Brad is at the forefront of a global transformation toward a carbon-free future. He directed development of the Petal and Net Zero Energy Certified zHome, the first multifamily zero net energy community in the United States, as well as Issaquah Fire Station 72, the world’s most energy efficient fire station and recipient of the international 2012 ASHRAE Technology award. Additionally, he is author of The Power of Zero: Learning From the World’s Leading Net Zero Energy Buildings. Brad has nearly three decades of experience catalyzing change in the fields of planning, environmental policy, urban design, construction management and sustainable building.

Recreation And Visitor Trends
Meilani Schijvens, Rain Coast Data, Juneau

Rain Coast Data is a Juneau based economics firm specializing in the economy of Southeast Alaska and visitor industry analysis and trends. Past projects include visitor industry analyses completed for Juneau, Yakutat, Wrangell, Prince of Wales, Sitka, Haines, the Inter-Island Ferry Authority, and work on Alaska Statewide Visitor Statistics publications. Ms. Schijvens has completed in-depth regional economic studies – including Southeast Alaska by the Numbers, the Southeast Alaska Economic Asset Map, and the Southeast Alaska Economic Plan 2020 – each with in-depth chapters on the Southeast Alaska visitor economy.

Innovation Meeting: Tuesday, August 22nd

As part of the ongoing planning efforts for the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area (MGRA), Corvus Design will be hosting an evening meeting with the general public who have an interest in the MGRA to get input and share ideas with national and international subject matter experts. Come hear ideas on innovation and share your ideas for the 50-year vision for the MGRA. Topics covered will include industry trends, implementation ideas, and criteria for success. Invited subject matter experts will be in Juneau for this session and include experts on transportation in public parks, sustainable buildings and energy, sustainable tourism, branding and marketing, economics and the visitor industry, and others.

This is to be an interactive meeting on Tuesday, August 22nd from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Mendenhall Valley Library Community Meeting Room located at 3025 Riverside Drive. We hope you can join us.