Pool or no, valley residents determined to build community

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2006

Many Mendenhall Valley residents believe it is the place to be in Juneau, even if they don't get what they want from voters.

"It would have been great to have a swimming pool or hockey rink here, but we are enjoying the valley anyway," Tye Smith said as she shared a spectacular day with her children Friday at the Mendenhall Glacier. "It is really about family and the outdoors here."

A $26 million aquatic center proposal was perceived to be "way too expensive" by voters, Assembly member David Stone said. About 54 percent of voters opposed a plan to build an aquatic center in the valley. It would have offered water slides and a whirlpool spa in addition to a swimming pool. Also having the private sector - such as JRC The Alaska Club - pay for a complex was eventually not in the city's agenda, he said.

"I understand the needs because when I grew up in the valley, I felt I lived somewhere on the moon," Stone said. "Although I appreciated the outdoors, it just felt that I wasn't getting all the things people downtown did."

Lisa Worl met with her girlfriends Friday at the Heritage Glacier Cafe. They also meet at the waffle house in Auke Bay at times. Worl runs with her friends at the trails, and does yoga with them at the Alaska Club when they can coordinate their schedules, she said. She hopes the full potential of the valley will be realized one day, she said.

"I will always vote to make the valley a better place," Worl said. "Anything that enhances the community."

U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologist Pete Schneider said he prefers the valley's climate, open space and laid-back atmosphere to downtown's congestion. He acknowledges that he goes to dinner and the movies in town.

"But not much can beat the Thai restaurant just across from Auke Bay," Schneider said. "There is more sun where I live out the road and I spend many afternoons at the coffee shops in the valley. There isn't much reason to go to town anymore."

Two Sitka women flew into Juneau Thursday and started a three-day shopping spree with some tourist stops along the way, they said. Ashley Leblanc and Cheredy Ferdelman described the valley as "unbelievably beautiful."

Their husbands are at the Sitka Coast Guard Station. The women said they started at Fred Meyer and stocked up before looking for more specific items at the Mendenhall Mall.

"My husband is watching the children while I am in Juneau," Ferdelman said. "I am originally from Florida so this is just an amazing area to me."

University of Alaska Southeast student Corlé LaForce-McPherson on Friday geared up for a hike at Mendenhall Glacier. She said she rarely goes downtown unless she is visiting Rainbow Foods, the natural-foods store a block from the Capitol. Nearly all her time is spent in the valley, if not with her husband in Lena Cove, she said. She anticipated ice climbing, or hiking, as she stood by Mendenhall Lake.

"There are just so many outdoor opportunities in the valley," LaForce-McPherson said. "I really hate driving and since the price of gas is so expensive I rarely go to town."

Stone wants the valley to grow and prosper, he said.

" I want to prioritize affordable housing in the valley," he said. "There are many competing needs, but the city needs to make this a priority."

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