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The U.S. Forest Service has unveiled a draft plan to deal with an increase in visitors at Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier.
The Forest Service last week released the plan calling for a new 7,000-square-foot (650-square-meter) visitor facility, a boat and dock system to ferry visitors across Mendenhall Lake, new trails and a mobile visitor center near the glacier, the Juneau Empire reported.
The Forest Service has yet to release the full plan but said the objectives are to decrease crowding, enhance opportunities for locals, and “chase the ice,” meaning increase opportunity for visitors to get to the glacier.
The Cruise Lines International Association said a record-setting number of over 1 million cruise visitors are expected in Juneau this year. About half of those visitors are expected to go to the glacier. Projections released earlier this year estimate a 200,000 visitor jump for Juneau in 2019, a 19 percent increase.
Designers hope a new hub of a visitor center next to the main parking lot will help spread out the crowds. The idea is to create a natural flow of visitors to the new facility, where they’ll get information about what they want to do, and from there, disperse.
Corvus Design landscape architect Peter Briggs showed off the concept for the new visitor facility at the unveiling meeting on Thursday.
The new center would be built where a pavilion next to the parking lot currently stands, Briggs said, an ideal location for visitors arriving by bus. Building the center in that area would entail tearing down the old pavilion.
“The existing pavilion doesn’t necessarily serve its ideal purpose and it’s in this great real estate. So one of the ideas is that an existing visitor center would go where the pavilion is,” Briggs said.
Public input is being accepted for the next few weeks. The full plan will be posted afterward, and then the Forest Service will begin a National Environmental Policy Act review.