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.

Transportation

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

Sustainability

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.

Tourism/Economics

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.

Transportation

  • 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)

Sustainability

  • 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.

Tourism/Economics

  • 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.