Putting the brakes on commercial tours of Alaska glacier
U.S. Forest Service would ban guided hikes on a popular trail at Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau.
JUNEAU, Alaska — A proposed U.S. Forest Service commercial tourism plan for Mendenhall Glacier would ban commercial hikes on a popular trail but increase commercial opportunities in other locations.
Commercial use of Steep Creek Trail would decrease from 3,000 allocated commercial users to zero, the Juneau Empire (bit.ly/15lYqhT) reported.
Nugget Falls Trail and Trail of Time would go from zero commercial use to upward of 15,000 and 18,000 users.
Juneau District Ranger Marti Marshall said about 1 million visitors reach Juneau by cruise ship each year.
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center director John Neary said about 40 percent visit the glacier, but the proposed changes would increase the number of tourists at the glacier.
“This process is about access,” Neary said. “In truth it is partially about money, but that’s not the core of what we do there. We’re there to give experiences to people.”
Marshall said making the glacier available to more tourists is good for the economy. The Forest Service has turned away commercial guides who want to make more trips to the glacier, but can’t because of caps for commercial use.
Bob Janes and Dawn Wolfe said their company, Gastineau Guiding, would benefit under the new plan.
“We’ve been hoping for a new management plan for five years,” Janes said.
But they’re not entirely pleased with the new proposal, since closing Steep Creek Trail would affect some their company’s tours.
“There are trails they’re taking away,” Wolfe said. “We are concerned about that.”
Linda Shaw of Juneau said she went to the meeting to advocate for wildlife, and hopes the Forest Service consider wildlife when developing a plan.
“I’m really concerned about how you can have growth but not impact the environment in some way,” she said after the meeting.
She also said the animals didn’t have representation at the meeting.
“They’re surviving out there,” Shaw said. “They’re not visitors; they’re not on vacation.”
Marshall said a revised plan won’t be ready for 2014 and that the agency aiming to put it in place in 2015.