How much would you pay to see the Grand Canyon? Would you pay $5 to see Niagra Falls in person?
In our backyard is Mendenhall Glacier, one of the world’s marvels. If it doesn’t appear marvelous, it’s only because we see it so often. The cliché says “familiarity breeds contempt.”
The more you’re around something, the more you take it for granted and the less marvelous it becomes.
Just ask John Neary, the director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, for evidence. He’s heard an earful since he announced that the visitor center is planning to raise its visitor fee.
Though we might not like it, we have to agree — the fee should be raised.
Mendenhall Glacier is a Juneau treasure, one of the most popular destinations for visitors and residents alike. It deserves to be protected, even when Congress fails to provide the funding such a valuable location deserves. Since 2013, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center budget has been cut in half, from $216,000 to $102,000.
Neary has proposed a $5 fee to be collected outside the center, mostly from the visitors who ride buses there each summer. There won’t be a fee between Oct. 1 and April 30, and there won’t be any fee at all for most trails. The Nugget Falls Trail leading to the waterfall and the East and West Glacier trails will still be free.
Proceeds won’t disappear — they’ll be put toward projects in and around the center. Fish habitat will be restored at Steep Creek and the center will take steps toward becoming a place for climate change education. Neary said 90 percent of earnings will go to the visitor center, and about 95 percent of fees collected are expected to come from tourists. The price impact to locals will be relatively minor.
We enjoy visiting Mendenhall Lake, glacier, Nugget Falls and the complex of trails that surround the visitor center. With climate change eroding Mendenhall Glacier year by year, we only have a few more decades to enjoy it as it exists today.
We trust that money raised by this fee will help all of Juneau, and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the glacier each year, continue to enjoy the Mendenhall area as long as possible.