What's up with that?

By a total coincidence, a totally Evergreen column

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2003

Q: Why is Evergreen Cemetery part of the city parks and rec department?

A: While at first glance it may seem to be an odd pairing, having Juneau Parks and Recreation maintain the cemetery grounds really does make a lot of sense - and not just because it is the largest expanse of open green space in downtown Juneau.

About one-half of the cemetery has been in city hands since the early part of the 20th century, while the other half, for many years, was comprised of separately held and maintained groups of plots for organizations such as the Moose Lodge, the Odd Fellows and the Masons.

"They were all their own entity and taken care of in that way," parks and rec landscape supervisor Terry Hinkley said. "As (some of) those organizations became less active, it started to fall into disrepair."

Eventually, the city's Public Works Department took over maintenance of the cemetery grounds. Then, in about 1979, those duties were transferred to parks and rec.

"We do all the turf maintenance around town, so that's why it made sense that we took over," Hinkley said.

Hinkley said burials still do occur at the old cemetery, but only at grave sites previously purchased or otherwise reserved. All plots at Evergreen are filled or reserved, he said.

Q: While on a walk at the wetlands, I saw a large Evergreen Air plane land at the airport. Do you have any info?

A: Even if you think you aren't familiar with the Evergreen planes, if you live in Juneau they affect you every day.

Evergreen International Airlines DC-9 jets are responsible for bringing in and taking out all the mail from Juneau - and the rest of Southeast Alaska, for that matter. The company has held the contract with the U.S. Postal Service for the past 10 years.

The Juneau-Seattle mail run is just one small cog in the massive aviation machine that is Evergreen. It all began in 1960 when Delford M. Smith founded what was then just Evergreen Helicopters in Anchorage. More than four decades later, Smith still owns the company - though it has expanded into a global conglomerate with many different companies.

In Alaska, the Evergreen Helicopters company provides many different services across the state, including air ambulance transport, high altitude search-and-rescue at Mount McKinley and - since 1984 - mail service across the turbulent Bering Sea to the tiny outpost of Little Diomede. The company does contract work on projects in Southeast Alaska.

For a glimpse of all that Evergreen does around the world, take a look at its Web site - www.evergreenaviation.com.

As for mail service into Juneau, last fall, during the middle of the soupy fog that plagued the area for days, a reader inquired about what happens when a mail flight cannot land here.

"If the mail doesn't get in, we have to put on extra (flights) until we catch up," said Gerard "Jerry" Rock, president of Evergreen Helicopters.

But even when Alaska Airlines' passenger planes can't fly to Juneau, Evergreen's freight-only jets usually make it in, Rock said.

"We've got lower minimums" for flying into Juneau in poor conditions, he said, since the Evergreen planes don't carry passengers. "It's just rare that we don't get in there."

Rock also noted that the Evergreen planes used on the mail runs are equipped with high-tech navigational aids, and the crews are very experienced in dealing with rough weather.

• Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com. Send questions and comments for What's Up With That to whatsup@juneauempire.com.

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