My Turn: Retaining the beauty of our town

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2002

If the city of Juneau does not wake up, soon there will be no more Juneau as we know it. Life is hard in Juneau. Our unique charm and beauty are the result of the incredibly hard work of citizens, past and present, combined with our natural gift of water, mountains and a northern rainforest.

Since that is so obvious, why is our government so hell-bent on destroying our beautiful neighborhoods, treasured natural refuges such as Sheep Creek and favorite public spaces like Marine Park?

Life is hard in Juneau. Whatever places of beauty we have managed to create have been at the cost of incredible fortitude and effort. The people who maintain beautiful homes, gardens and streets serve the population as a whole. The value of this citizen effort is so great it is incalculable, and thus it is easily ignored in favor of plans and projects that can be counted in dollars and cents.

The beauty of our town is what makes people want to travel and live here, and, I bet, even keep the capital here. It does not make sense to destroy our beauty.

Yet the reigning powers-that-be appear to be prejudiced against the beautiful neighborhoods that are so valuable to Juneau. At the Assembly Monday, a man from Lena Loop described eloquently the misery of his neighbors. They had the new road to NOAH pushed down their throats, and now, already, plans for a new subdivision are being put into action, without even a green buffer zone between the old and similar and the new and different.

My landlord and landlady live on Lena Loop. I remember her joy on a visit there when she told me that she had found the home of her dreams. This community is one of many in Juneau which give pleasure to any of us who want to drive, walk, bicycle or horseback ride in a beautiful place. I love my visits to Lena Loop. One night last winter, the awesome homes, the multitudinous stars and the silence were so amazing that I could truly understand the fervor of the residents to preserve their neighborhood.

I cannot understand the city's fervor to destroy their neighborhood. The value of Lena Loop is more far-outreaching than just quality of life for us alone. There is a nearby campground. The campers and other visitors who see Lena Loop will remember their experience of Juneau as positive.

It is economically worth it for the city to preserve the places of beauty that make visitors enjoy themselves. We do not want them to go home and report a negative experience. Does our government remember the comment in the New York Times, that visiting Juneau is like visiting Chernobyl?

It was mentioned above that life is hard in Juneau, so that the creation and maintenance of neighborhoods, gardens and beautiful public spaces is the fruit of tremendous effort. But the fact that life is hard in Juneau means also that we who live here need these places and experiences of beauty. Just because we are surrounded by trees, mountains and water does not mean that we have no need for small refuges of beauty within our town. People need to be able to relax amid nature every day, even if just in a beautiful neighborhood with gardens or a park with trees. We need this opportunity within walking distance of our homes and workspaces for our mental and physical health, especially because life is hard in Juneau.

Many citizens of Juneau are now unhappy, because our beautiful refuges are being eliminated or threatened. The residents of Lena Loop share this unhappiness with the residents of Gastineau Avenue, Thane Road and innumerable other neighborhoods.

Even ancient Rome knew that it had to keep its citizens happy. The plain, simple homeowners and residents of our exquisite neighborhoods, who are scorned by our government, do not require lavish spectacles for their happiness, just preservation of their hard-earned beautiful spaces.

It is not embarrassing to admit that a plan is faulty and change it. Changing one's mind upon reflection is part of the natural process of all of our endeavors, including city planning. Let's wise up and preserve our beauty.

Page Bridges lives downtown. She founded the National Aesthetic Preservation Society.

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