To the Forest Service EIS question "should there be more helicopter flightseeing in Juneau," the Forest Service need look no further than the 1998 McDowell Group "Community Opinion Survey" prepared for CBJ's Tourism Advisory Committee.
Back then, when flightseeing numbers were lower than they are today, the survey's community-wide results were overwhelmingly against any increase. Eighty-one percent of citizens surveyed said do not go over the 1998 levels. This result must be made part of the Forest Service's EIS as they consider whether to double yes, double the number of helicopter flightseeing trips allowed here.
On the radio Friday I heard that only about 50 citizens had sent written responses to the Forest Service EIS. Over 100 postcards were received from tourists who'd enjoyed the flightseeing experience. I just hope the careful McDowell survey of hundreds of our residents is given more attention than those hundred-plus visitor commendations.
More specifically, here are some of the results of the 1998 McDowell Group survey:
Question 11: In terms of any impact on the community, which of the following tourist activities do you feel could expand, should be maintained at current levels, or should be reduced ... c) Helicopter flightseeing?:
Should be Reduced: 32 percent
Maintained at Current Level: 49 percent
Could expand: 13 percent
Don't Know/Refused: 6 percent
My summary for this year's EIS: 81 percent said don't raise the number of flights.
Question 13: Which area of the Borough do you live in?
Juneau Downtown/Thane: 13 percent
Douglas/West Juneau: 12 percent
Salmon Cr/Lemon Cr/Switzer Cr: 15 percent
East Mendenhall Valley: 40 percent
North Douglas: 5 percent
West Mendenhall/Brotherhood Bridge and OTR: 15 percent
My summary: the 81 percent "no more" respondents were from about 25 percent Juneau/Douglas; 55 percent Valley; 15 percent Lemon Creek. Clearly it's not just Channel residents who were at their max.
These results the entire McDowell report must be a top consideration for the Forest Service as it considers doubling the number of flights allowed. And for the city as it considers alternate heliport sites.
Back in 1998, we said "no more flights" which really meant "no more helicopter sound." Sound impact was already enough or too much for Valley and Channel residents alike. Any increase, be it more flights or by shifting heliports and flight path impacts to other neighborhoods such as subdivisions near the Glacier or Montana Creek, runs counter to the already-researched citizen response to flightseeing sound.
In light of the 1998 McDowell survey, any area where residents will be hit with more sound, more often, cannot be a sound solution for those of us who would have to live with the results.
Sara Boesser lives near Skater's Cabin and cherishes her neighborhood's natural setting and quiet.
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