Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area Is Expecting Big Changes

Dec 20, 2023

News

With nearly a decade passed, the U.S. Forest Service has finally made a decision to overhaul Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area.

The project has provoked hundreds and thousands of public comments from the Juneau community over the years.

Alexandra Pierce, the city’s tourism manager, says, “I like to see a plan that’s well managed and that listens to residents’ concerns. People didn’t want to see motorized boats on the lake and additional visitor center facilities and the Forest Service listens to the public on that, which is a positive thing.”

The newly finalized plans include a new welcome center and other improvements to the old one. The plan is also set to increase parking, expand the trail systems, add an amphitheater and new public-use cabins.

The glacier is one of the most visited tourist attractions. Forest service officials say the improvements will be helping in the management of the pressure with Juneau’s rapid growth in cruise ship tourism that has increased in the recent years.

When the visitor center was established in the 1960s, the area saw 23,000 visitors annually. Currently, about 700,000 visitors come to the glacier every year. The Forest Service is estimating that by 2050 this number could reach a million.

But with more visitors the glacier has been moving away and even more so due to climate change. In a few decades the glacier will not likely be visible to the current visitor center at all.

Pierce said that listening to the concerns of the people about overcrowding while also being aware that the tourism sector is an ever-growing field makes managing the area a constant balancing act. Pierce said, “I do think that’s a difficult puzzle for the Forest Service to try to solve. I think we’re all concerned about the receding glacier and what that means for the visitor experience in our community.”

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Sarmind is a Writer and an aspiring Editor who has experience in various short and long-form niches. Her academic pursuits intensely mold her industry background in content creation. She holds a Master's degree in Literature, and when not writing for professional purposes, she can be found re-reading old classics of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. She is super fond of cats and enjoys hours of doom-scrolling through memes on social media while cuddled up with a cup of desi chai. She likes to think she is an intellectual badass (colloquial: nerdy bore), and now all she needs is a sewing kit to complete the look!

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