In Peace and Quiet Coalition representative Kim Metcalfe's My Turn column, she is enthusiastic about moving helicopter operations to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area. This would "remove flightseeing noise from the residential areas." Her conclusion is wrong, as half of Juneau's population lives in the valley between Egan Drive and the Mendenhall Glacier. What occurs in the recreation does affect us.
Years ago, as helicopter companies were increasing flightseeing volume and flying near valley residential areas, the noise and reverberation off the surrounding mountains was a serious problem. In response to public comment, the operators did an excellent job of altering flight paths and purchasing quieter equipment. Suggesting a consolidated site for helicopter operations at the visitor's Center reintroduces a noise issues that was previously mitigated and may not solve the situation that we, as a total community, are attempting to address.
The suggestion that the Forest Service issues flightseeing permits and should, therefore, provide an area for staging helicopters is subject to debate. A USFS representative suggested this use, possibly as a conversation opener, but the offer is not a done deal as far as area residents are concerned. E-mail "shuttle mediation" doesn't constitute public participation. The USFS undertook an extensive, 11-year process to develop a comprehensive Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area Management Plan. Any intensive new use needs to be evaluated in relation to the plan. There are issues concerning visitor's experiences when recreating or viewing the glacier, the arctic term nesting areas along the lakeshore, safety, parking needs and so on.
It's offensive for the Peace and Quiet Coalition to suggest that the Juneau Assembly endorse their proposal in the form of a resolution. Their non-solution only solves a specific gripe, by one presently organized group, about noise downtown. Its plan is simplistic and attempts to displace the problem without adequate process and in ignorance of the whole picture.
Patricia A. Tynan