JUNEAU, Alaska–Juneau District Ranger Brad Orr announced today that the Forest Service will implement changes next May to fees charged at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center (MGVC). In an effort to enhance the Mendenhall experience for all visitors, the Forest Service will increase the “amenity fee” and expand the fee collection area. “The intent is to provide better services and facilities in and around the visitor center,” said Orr. “About 90 percent of the amenity fees collected at the visitor center support the maintenance, operations, and programs at thesite.”
Fees will not be charged during the off-season, from October 1 to April 30, but the new fee will be charged beginning May 1, 2016. Forest Service currently charges a $3 fee to persons 16 or older who enter the visitor center building. A $10 seasonal pass is also available, which allows the pass holder and one guest into the visitor center. The new fee will be $5 and the seasonal pass $15 ($10 if purchased after July 15). People under 16 years of age continue to be free, and the Forest Service will continue honoring all national interagency visitor passes. For example, the Senior Access pass ($10) for those aged 62 and older allows the holder plus three guests into any national park or forest for their lifetime.
“The Forest Service will begin charging fees next May for use of the bus shelters, Steep Creek Trail and platforms, viewing pavilion near the parking area, Photo Point Trail, and all restroom facilities”, said Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Director John Neary. “This will allow us to maintain and improve those facilities to the benefit of everyone.”
The Mendenhall Visitor Center opened its doors in 1962 and began collecting fees through the Fee Demo Program in 1999 to help offset the costs of maintenance and operations. The 2016 fee increase is the first in 17 years. While visitation numbers have more than doubled from 200,000 people in 1999 to more than 450,000 visitors during the summer season, funding has not kept pace.
“We need improved facilities and experienced staff outside of the visitor center building to handle bus traffic and road crossings, reduce the potential for human-bear conflict, improve the flow of pedestrian traffic on better trails, increase the enjoyment of visitors through interpretive programs, assist with first-aid and emergency needs,” said Neary.
Unlike most recreation sites across the Tongass National Forest, most visitors experience the Mendenhall Glacier by using commercial tour operators. All tour operators are required to hold a permit with the Forest Service for any tours to the forest, including Mendenhall. The Forest Service is working with tour operators to ensure their customers benefit from better facilities and services.
For example, a new Master Plan will address solutions to the congestion that often diminishes quality of experiences, said Neary. Improvements to traffic flow, trails, viewing platforms, covered viewing areas and food venues will be considered.
“We are also seeking public and private partnerships to help improve the Mendenhall experience,” said Neary. “This will require a sustainable flow of visitors who all contribute reasonable fees to support operations and improvements.”
“While some Juneau residents may feel they don’t need interpretation,” said Neary, “I am sure they will understand the value of improved trails and reduced congestion. We believe there is something here for everyone.”
For more information, contact John Neary at 907-789-6637 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.