The intangibles were far more stunning than the scenery! And the scenery was truly breathtaking. Staggering even.
The flight was a simple orientation hop for new pilots to learn the major landmarks of the Juneau Icefield, but even for someone fairly well versed in things Alaskan the experience was incredibly moving. Cheechako or sourdough, pioneer or newly arrived, for someone who's never seen the icefield, words will never suffice. You just have to see it for yourself.
Now, 13 years later, after having flown literally thousands of folks over most of Southeast, the majesty of our home remains as unique and as stunning as the memory of that first glimpse.
Many, many visitors have told me in utmost sincerity that the flight had been the highlight, had "made" their trip. Some even called it a life event, mumbling something to themselves about dying happy as they walked away.
But an even bigger and more important intangible was also evident from the first day.
As struck as I was and remain by our incredible gift of location, I was even more amazed at how such a priceless chunk of real estate could belong to us all! I was amazed by how the essence of what we have to sell to the world belongs to everyone.
However flawed and dysfunctional our system of government and way of life may seem at times, the ideal is magnificent. Sometimes it actually stops me in my tracks when the reality and the truth of what we have, of what we as citizens collectively own manifests itself as a realization of the equally shared wealth.
I guess, in a nutshell, it was clear to me from day one that the thing that makes Juneau's product of place unique, the thing that sends them away enchanted and laughing and spreading the good word belongs to us all. The roux in the sauce, the spice in the pudding, the bona fide chemistry in the quality of the product is the setting.
No rocket science here. Icefield, glaciers, whales, eagles, etc.
And it belongs to everyone.
Because that's the reality of the setting as we live it.
Some of the folks who visit do find a ride in floatplane or a helicopter novel, because it is novel. But we all know that's not the bull's-eye that makes this thing click! There would be a small market for those excursions, but the scale would be a drop in the bucket compared to today's numbers without the scenery.
And the scenery is a shared property. By us all.
Along with that shared ownership comes a shared responsibility.
If you flesh the dynamics of the flightseeing industry in Alaska out, the heart and the soul of what the operators are selling really isn't "theirs" to "sell" at all. It belongs to everyone.
Without question, the most important ingredient of the success of far the vast majority of flightseeing belongs to the whole of the community. Actually of the nation, if the truth be known.
Basic things that we're all learning and have learned about community and family and well-being tell us that this shared ownership implies and demands a responsibility to all the owners.
You don't have to dig very deep into our noise issue to realize that the problem's not going away, nor is it going to solve itself.
For your benefit and for mine, and for the sake of simplicity, perhaps I should re-state the gist of this article.
Needless to say the flightseeing industry enjoys success and potential in our setting.
Also needless to say a crucial ingredient in this success is community property that belongs to everyone, to all of the members of the fabric of the setting that makes it what it is, and makes us who we are.
This crucial ingredient doesn't belong just to the majority, nor does it belong just to those who may enjoy access to the levers of power.
It belongs to everyone.
Which perhaps brings us to the reality of the question of the intrinsic truth of this defining matter in our midst.
Is all of our well being nurtured relative to our shared ownership of this indispensable resource, or is the justice of some of the owners being thwarted to the detriment of the whole?
Jody Liliedahl of Juneau is concerned about peace and justice.