Juneau Color: Conservationist learns worst can happen

Extinction of salmon species, Egan project helped form views

Posted: Friday, December 29, 2000

Dick Myron was 18 when he witnessed what would influence the course of his life and later have a significant, though subtle impact on how Alaska's capital city grew.

Myron is a long-time conservationist who could be found on the front lines around Southeast. Among many battles, he fought for a better route for Egan Drive into town, fought for the preservation of Admiralty Island and was instrumental in forming Brotherhood Bridge Park.

He twice served as the president of the Sierra Club Juneau Group and helped write the bylaws of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

But it all started back in California where he grew up hunting and fishing in the San Jose area. Myron, 76, was a young fisheries aide during World War II when over the course of three years, he saw the San Joaquin River's southern run of king salmon go extinct.

"When you see it, you don't realize the significance until down the road," Myron said.

The budding conservationist soon went to work for the federal Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. In 1949, he headed north to Bristol Bay where most of the fishing fleet recently had converted to diesel engine power, but "there were just a couple sails left," he said.

He moved to Juneau in the mid-1950s, working at the National Marine Fisheries Service's Auke Bay lab until his retirement in 1981.

Myron said his conservation career started in the 1960s when plans called for building what would become Egan Drive through the middle of Gastineau Channel.

"That incurred some wrath," Myron said. "That sort of branded me with the local establishment. It's dynamite if you get labeled a hard-core conservationist. You're not in normal society any more."

The present route of Egan Drive was a compromise between the road builders and the Stellar Society, said R.T. "Skip" Wallen, who was one of about a dozen members of the group with Myron.

"We saved a lot of the wetlands for recreational use," Wallen said.

Another part of the compromise was the formation of the Twin Lakes area, which originally was slated for development, he said.

But what Myron could be the most unrecognized for is leading the charge to form Brotherhood Bridge Park, Wallen said.

"He's primarily responsible for creating Brotherhood Park," said Rich Gordon, another long time conservationist who said Myron "bulldogged" the project through.

Gordon said Myron isn't always the easiest guy to get along with, but he's smart, tenacious and has the ability to work quietly behind the scenes with people to get things done.

And he was one of the first scientists to be aware of logging damage to Admiralty Island and worked to preserve the island, Gordon said.

Now mostly retired from conservation work, Myron said he is continuing to work on an autobiography with recounts of the early days of conservation in Southeast.

But Juneau's wetlands are still a major concern to him. He believes the city someday will try to punch a road from Sunny Point to Douglas Island to feed people's need for instant access by automobile. He doesn't own a vehicle, instead taking the bus and renting a car once a week to go grocery shopping and other running around.

"That's the next big fight," Myron said. "It'll be just a nasty, nasty battle."

Mike Hinman can be reached at mhinman@juneauempire.com.

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