While some told Juneau planning commissioners Tuesday night they think Mount Roberts or Eaglecrest would be more appropriate places for tourists to be gliding through the rain forest treetops, several Juneau residents said they are looking forward to Alaska Canopy Adventures' becoming a good neighbor to Douglas.
"I support the project," said Ginger Johnson, who walks daily through the property owned by AJ Mining. "Tourists want to enjoy the beauty we see every day, leave their money and go home, and I support that."
The Juneau Planning Commission approved, without opposition, a conditional-use permit for the development on 35 acres of privately held AJ Mining property, beginning this summer.
The "zip-line" project is planned to take tourists over the old mining property on cables suspended from trees. The company opened its first zip-line tour in Ketchikan last summer, attracting about 5,000 cruise passengers from May through September, said Hakan Sebcioglu, the operations manager. Similar rainforest attractions can be found in Mexico and Costa Rica, he said.
None is at a latitude as far north as Ketchikan, and Ketchikan doesn't "zip" over remnants of historic mining ruins, he said.
"It's part adventure tour and part historic tour," city planner Susana Montana said.
"It's a really great eco-friendly tour," company President Brien Salazar told commissioners. He said it has established itself in Ketchikan as a quiet tour.
Tourists will reach the attraction by boat across the Gastineau Channel from downtown Juneau. It will use a portion of the Treadwell trail along the beach, south of Sandy Beach, that runs on private property but has long been used by the public.
Montana said much of the opposition that has surfaced since the project was publicized has come from people who currently enjoy use of the trail.
Paul DeSloover told commissioners it's an area of "extremely heavy local use." He called it an "oasis" from the noise of the city.
"Year-round residents have to have at least one place they can get away from the summer madness," he said. He added that it's a trail where people often go because it's easier to access than others. "If people want to see the trees from above, they can go on the (Mount Roberts) tram."
He also suggested that Eaglecrest Ski Area would be a better location for such an attraction, which would help the community because that area needs a summer attraction.
Victoria McLaughlin said the trail is a favorite among dog owners, and she believes the zip-line tour use would take that away from the community.
"I'd be happy if it moved over to the tram," she said.
Rick Urion said AJ Mining has been the best neighbor Douglas could have, and he believes the zip-line tour will be a great neighbor too.
"This is private property," he said, adding that the owner allows people to walk across it. The part of the trail that is on the private property doesn't get as much use anyway.
Tony Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.