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EDITOR, Daily News:
As the pulp mill limped towards its closure in 1997, the Daily News published stories about the pollution in Ward Cove and surrounding land.
Ketchikan Pulp had been telling the public that capital improvements were just around the corner and that it was taking steps to clean up the pollution. Nevertheless, the pulp mill closed, and Ward Cove was deemed toxic to marine life, as a sand cap was laid as a containment.
Workers were sent out to learn new skills, returning to Ketchikan to set up private businesses. Instead of an economic slump, within a year or two our town felt optimistic for the future. Some of that optimism was due to tourism, having a much smaller footprint than nowadays, but mainly because we responded as a vibrant community. Tourism continued to increase as official decision-makers offered advantages to tour companies.
Today, cruise companies plan on bringing mega ships into Ward Cove, seriously impacting that area, causing greater congestion as more boats or buses will be needed for transport. Local cruise ship proponents seem willing to do all in their power to bring in more tourists, ignoring the fact that Ward Cove remains heavily polluted. Many locals are overwhelmed with more than a million visitors, staying away from downtown congestion, breathing a sigh of relief when ships leave.
We rarely hear about diversification of the economy. Instead of supporting small companies, such as ones raising seaweed, various mariculture industries, or small businesses, we spend thousands studying how to bring in more ships. Those who will profit from increased tourism spout facts about the benefits of mass tourism, ignoring the negative impacts, such as the reality that ships’ bow thrusters dislodge toxins that will flush into the Narrows.
Lack of imagination has overtaken Ketchikan. The tourism groove is comfortable for five months; instead of encouraging new ideas, plans abound for more tourists. Some local businesses I’ve visited describe tourists pawing through their goods and asking for a deal. As a resident of Ketchikan, I am proud of our local culture and say, enough!