I held a job for 10 years on "the hill" working for both Republicans and Democrats, for both the Legislature and the administration. I managed to do so only by listening to the advice of my husband who always said, "Honey, it's OK to have an opinion; it's even OK to have a strong opinion; but the world doesn't need to know your opinion so, to keep a job, keep your opinion to yourself!"
Well, it's time I ignored that well-intentioned admonition. My opinion is, closing the airport trail or surrounding wetlands would not send a message that Juneau's a safer place. Its message would only be: They Win.
I wasn't a dog owner when I first started walking this trail. In fact, I assumed most folks I'd meet out there on a typical (i.e. wet, soggy) Juneau day would only be there out of devotion to the recreation of their canines and I wasn't looking forward to doing the "doggie-doo-doo dodge" every other step. What I found instead was a nearly immaculate trail, awesome in its vistas, with a wonderful diversity of people; people with and without pets, with and without children, jogging, bike-riding, walking their children in strollers or by their sides, walking their animals on or off lead, and people just out for a stroll and the view. And the remarkable thing to me was the courtesy each showed the other. If a dog was on lead, those allowing theirs to run free heeled them or held them to their sides. If a jogger or biker approached, folks moved to the side to allow them to easily pass. If children appeared near an animal walker, the pets were picked up, heeled, or quickly clipped to a lead so no one felt a threatening moment. If deer, ducklings, or eaglets were in sight of any one passerby, the hush sign resonated throughout the trail and all came quietly to see the sight. If I and the hundreds of other trail travelers can't enjoy this wonderful mixture of humanity and wildlife, They Win.
I have a dog now. I walk him along the airport trail regularly. I clean up his doo-doo and make him mind his manners. I let kids pet him and try to make him behave when co-walkers offer him treats. I look for "Eggbert," the baby eagle watched by so many of us as he worked through his bad hair days early in the spring. I watch the rest of the wildlife my husband and other walkers have pointed out to me over many years on the trail now. I've come to love it - and, like anything we come to love, I don't want to lose it If I lose it, if we lose it, if Juneau loses it, They Win.
I'm certainly not a "greenie" and undoubtedly sit at odds with those of that persuasion in many instances. I prefer to vote Integrity rather than Democrat or Republican. I take what money I earn and give back by donating hundreds of hours to charities and helping those in need. But if I can't even take a walk on a gorgeous trail in a relatively small town, They Win.
I applaud our federal, state and local leaders in their attempts to make our airports safer in the face of terror. But it's ludicrous to think that every inch around every airport can and must be patrolled. In Alaska there are airports without towers, terminals, landing lights or even a restroom in some cases. Do they need the security of Reagan National or LAX? Does Juneau need to close down a well-loved, awesome trail because of terrorist attacks which will put in place unrealistic restrictions in ridiculous places? If so, then I say, They Win. And for once I want folks to know my opinion.
Donna Sheridan of Juneau works for BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. in its legislative office. Previously, she worked for the Knowles administration in the governor's legislative office, and as legislative staff for Republican Sen. Steve Frank and Democratic Sen. Pat Pourchot.