My Turn: Which is sick, the park or the people?

Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2005

G unakadeit Park has been diagnosed as a sick puppy. Gastineau sold it to the city for $10.00 and now there is word that it needs repair. Yes it does. The park needs loving care, attention and leadership.

I have not been invited to a city Parks and Recreation planning meeting since I told them what I thought of the plan to fix the sick park. I didn't understand the long-term plan for the bus stop. I don't understand why one wasn't designed one block north on their property where the Odd Fellows Hall became a parking lot. I guess the most offensive comments I had were these:

1) "If I managed the park, I would lock it up at 9 p.m. each night." 2) "I don't understand the need for a bus stop here. There's one two blocks away on Main Street." 3) "Why do we need Men's and Women's toilets two blocks from two sets of the city's existing toilets?" 4) "The bike racks are too big." 5) "The original design called for more lighting." 6) "The original design had facilities for Juneau Convention and Visitors Center." 7) "Our underground oil tank is on city property." 8)" The curb cuts, fire hydrant and streetlight need to be reconfigured." 9) "The new plan requires our Dumpster to be drug 30 feet or more to get to Franklin Street for access." 10) "We don't need any barrier walls where people can lurk and hide." 11) "We don't need a 'San Francisco' designed fountain that will smell like a urinal outside our front windows."

What is sick now? Modification of behavior is relatively inexpensive compared to design. An eyesore, yes. I've had good luck modifying the behavior of the visitors to the Gastineau Apartments by simply establishing and communicating the basic rules of the road and you know that 97 percent of those persons I deal with understand. So, 3 percent are sick.

It's not the Glory Hole clients that make up the 3 percent. They do not accept intoxicated individuals. As depicted in previous articles in the paper, there is an enormous amount of confusion as to where these people originate. The Downtown Business Association individuals that were quoted on the issue own stores more than two blocks away from here. Why are we an eyesore to them when they can't see us? If you ask the intoxicated individuals to move along, they mostly understand your request. Not everyone who uses "Pocket Park" is a drunk. I have sat and suntanned with some of the elderly and disabled residents, enjoying the park while a senior couple, (obviously tourists) sat and drank a six-pack of Alaskan Amber. Not my description of a drunken situation. What's sick?

Many people enjoy the park.

The Glory Hole is managed well by a totally different group of individuals, a block and a half away from Pocket Park. It infuriates me that people have been throwing indiscriminate rocks at that agency and attaching our social problems to some kind of scapegoat. We are only discussing a minor portion of the population that ruin it for all, and they move around everywhere downtown. If they leave here, where will they go next? The city's Parks and Recreation Department manage Gunakadeit. The staff does a fine job of taking care of the cosmetic maintenance, but who is in charge? It is the planners. No matter how you configure the park, you will have social problems, until we figure that out.

I have no idea what a curb cut cost the city and I am sure a gate with security and lighting could be done for $40,000 (plus engineering and design). The current answers are bulldoze it, reconfigure it and add toilets and a fountain, to the tune of $800,000. My goodness, that's a fine solution to something that is sick. If they want to give Gunakadeit Park back to us for $10, I am sure I can get rid of the 3 percent 'eyesore' that everyone is discussing. And I'll keep the light on for 'ya.

• J. Mark Johnson is the building manager for Gastineau Apartments.

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