In response to Mr. Larry Knecht's letter on Friday, April 9 ("Juneau has a right to a safe airport"), I telephoned him and introduced myself to discuss some of the points he had raised about the Empire's April 5 "Juneau Color" feature about me. I want to clear up any misconceptions his letter may have caused to other readers.
I agreed with Mr. Knecht, who was very cordial, that airport safety is of paramount importance. I commended the airport staff for working cooperatively with the public. I told him how a group of volunteers working with the airport, Trail Mix and the Juneau Audubon Society cut and cleared overgrown branches from the trail. This created unhindered access for the airport's large fire truck on the dike which serves as the airport's Emergency Vehicle Access Road. It freed up busy maintenance crews to work on other duties, saved the city money and speeded up the crew's brush hauling.
I explained to Mr. Knecht that I have notified airport staff about hazardous hard-to-see conditions such as a large flock of migrating Pacific white-fronted geese that settled into a deep drainage beside the runway and a large concentration of eagles feeding in a river channel near the flight path.
Especially in the Sept. 11 aftermath, trail users have supplemented airport security patrols by adding experienced eyes and ears - and almost constant foot traffic - along the perimeter.
And finally, I assured Mr. Knecht that I did not convince the Empire to write about my opinions. I was contacted by the newspaper and am grateful for a job well done by reporter Tara Sidor.
The trail is more than a place to enjoy nature: It is one of Juneau's most treasured access points to the Mendenhall refuge. Hunters, children and their families, hikers, birdwatchers, and dogs and their owners all share common enjoyment of the trail. As one of the few flat trails, it is easy for strollers, bicycles and wheelchairs. If we continue to work together respectfully to understand each other's needs, we can preserve this wonderful place for all users and maintain airport safety at the same time.
Laurie Ferguson Craig