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The glacier and bears will wait for you

Posted: August 21, 2012 - 12:00am

Have you been out to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center lately? Summer weather, bears, and sockeye salmon provide great wildlife viewing opportunities, so it’s a happening place. On a typical day the Center may host some 4,000 people. These people are visitors from cruise ships and ferries; they’re your visiting friends and relatives; they’re your neighbors and you. We all come to marvel at the beauty of the glacier, ask why the ice is blue, and be enthralled with the wild bears, salmon, beavers, and porcupines in the area.

Arriving to and departing from the Center involves hiking, biking, walking, jogging; or commercial vans, buses, taxis; or private vehicles. The Visitor Center area is inherently congested with cross walks, parking lots, trails, and an abundance of people who may be paying attention to the glacier or a nearby bear - not to passing traffic. My staff and many visitors have noticed an abundance of vehicles speeding into and away from the Center. We estimate that at least seventy-five percent of the vehicles on the road exceed the speed limits. The posted speed limits drop from 40 miles per hour (mph) to 30 mph to 20 mph relatively quickly, and it is easy for even the most well-meaning motorist to exceed the speed limit.

The failure to drive slowly in the area sets the stage for a collision between a vehicle and a person (or a bear). It’s only a matter of time before someone will get severely injured or killed unless we all slow down. I’m asking for cooperation from the local residents who frequent this valued site. I’m asking for cooperation from our partners, the permitted companies who deliver visitors to the Center. I’m also requesting increased law enforcement on this road to slow people down. And I will pursue other options with the Alaska Department of Transportation such as seasonal speed bumps or “rumble strips.” We need everyone’s help and cooperation.

So if you’re looking for wildlife at the Visitor Center, please slow down! You’ll be more likely to see more bears, beavers, eagles ….or that small child darting out between parked cars.

 

Marti Marshall

Juneau District Ranger

Tongass National Forest

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