Dike trail stays open as airport security increases

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2001

Juneau Airport officials do not want to close the Airport Dike Trail, the Juneau Airport Board and staff members said Wednesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Juneau Airport had discussed blocking access to the dike trail for security reasons in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but no such change is currently mandated, according to airport officials. However, things could change, they added.

"There is no plan to close the dike trail - today," airport Manager Allan Heese told the Airport Board on Wednesday.

The trail, an unpaved road around the airport's floatplane basin, is designed as an emergency access route in case an accident or mishap occurs, according to Patty de La Bruere of the airport manager's office. The route also is popular with local hikers, hunters, runners and dog-walkers.

Airport Board member Jeannie Johnson, who is stepping down to take a seat on the Juneau Assembly, said the board and airport staff have long understood the community's desire to keep the dike trail open and backed efforts to do so.

"I don't know if anyone on the staff or the Airport Board wants to close the trail," she said. "I don't believe that's the case."

Airport Board Chairman Mike Barton agreed. "Keep it open if at all possible," he said.

Trail users will notice more airport maintenance, emergency and security vehicles using the route, and airport staff members will be clearing and pruning brush to allow vehicles through, de La Bruere said.

Patty Judson and other trail users have collected about 600 names on a petition urging the FAA and the city to keep access to the dike trail open. Juneau doesn't have a big urban airport and people value the trail, she said.

"We realize there is a real need for airport security. Everybody recognizes that," she said. "People want that, but they want a logical approach to the area, not one-size-fits-all."

Judson said she'd like to see the FAA work with the city to find solutions to security issues, rather than issue edicts.

Meanwhile, National Guard troops were scheduled to start work at Juneau's airport today. Across the country, the National Guard has been called on to augment airport security.

"Security issues with the world situation and the national situation are changing daily, if not multiple times a day," Heese said.

Airport officials also are dealing with changes in front of the airport terminal. Although the front curb is open to the public to load and unload cars, people must park 300 feet away from the terminal building.

Heese said the airport can get around the 300-foot limit if it searches all unattended vehicles within the perimeter or builds a blast barrier. No decision has been made whether to take either of those actions, he said.

FAA security agent Dick Otto, based in Anchorage, said travelers still need to arrive at the airport earlier than they used to because of the new security requirements. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, airport officials advised travelers to arrive two hours before takeoff.

"As time has gone on, people have grown complacent again," he said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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