On July 15, 1996, the Juneau Assembly adopted an ordinance establishing a Juneau Park System made up of natural area parks, recreation service parks, and conservation areas.
The Juneau Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan published in July 1996 describes natural area parks as "areas of natural quality designed to serve the entire community by providing open space, access to water and opportunities for passive and dispersed recreation activities. ... When over 45 miles of CBJ trails are combined with those managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska State Parks, it becomes obvious that the opportunity for hiking and recreation in natural areas is second to none."
Many people in Juneau enjoy the natural area parks because they are less developed and provide opportunities to experience wildlife, a low concentration of users and solitude in the wilderness. Some of these parks are semi-primitive, with trails, rest rooms, viewpoints, interpretive panels and improvements that are in harmony with the natural environment. Future improvements can include campsites, shelters, interpretive centers and multi-purpose trails.
By contrast the recreation service parks are designed and developed for active recreation and programmed use and include sports fields, playgrounds, picnic benches, shelters, tennis courts, rest rooms and indoor recreation facilities. Some 27 service parks are listed in the 1996 plan, among them Melvin Park, Savikko Park and Adair Kennedy Park. Others can be as small as a single lot, known as pocket parks, and are designed for active recreation with a high probability of social contact and interaction.
Conservation areas are natural areas with recognized environmental qualities of high value, which are set aside for the protection and management of the natural environment and where recreation is a secondary objective. These may be stream corridors, greenbelts or high-value wetlands.
Juneau is a diverse community and we need to provide diverse recreational opportunities. Having park designations such as natural area park, recreation service park and conservation area, allows the city to better manage lands to meet the needs of the community. These parks also are an important element in the economic viability and appeal of Juneau, attracting visitors, sustaining retirees' lifestyles and bringing Juneau youths back to the community after they have gone off to see the world.
Mary Lou King is a local trails book author. On the Trails is provided by Trail Mix, a nonprofit trails maintenance and construction group on the Web at www.juneautrails.org/.