Greater Sitka Arts Council hosts its annual fall Sitka Art Walk on Nov. 28

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The Greater Sitka Arts Council is hosting its annual fall Sitka Art Walk from 5-9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, at several businesses around Sitka. This event takes place on Black Friday, which is a sales tax holiday in Sitka.

Galleries and businesses participating in this fall’s art walk are:

  • Back Door Cafe, 104 Barracks, Featuring paintings by Tracy Sylvester
  • Robertson’s Gallery and Custom Framing, 128 Lincoln, New photographs and prints
  • Old Harbor Books, 201 Lincoln, Original Sculptures by Liz Zacher
  • Island Artists Gallery, 205 B Lincoln, Featuring more than 20 local artists
  • Homeport Eatery, 209 Lincoln, With live music
  • Fishermen’s Eye Gallery, 239 Lincoln, Mountain drawings by Norm Campbell, and Collages and Quilts by Lucy Phillips
  • Sitka Rose Gallery, 419 Lincoln, New Pastels and prints by Eric Bealer
  • Raindance Gallery,  205 Monastery, Featuring mixed media artist Vivian Faith Prescott

Comment period closes Nov. 15 for Indian River pedestrian bridge replacement options at Sitka National Historical Park

Indian River Pedestrian Bridge Replacement Overview Poster_small

The Sitka National Historical Park has posted the potential alternatives for the replacement of the Indian River Pedestrian Bridge in the park visitors center.

Public input on the presented designs will have substantial influence on which design will become the preferred alternative in the Environmental Assessment (EA) under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis. The public is invited to the park through Saturday, Nov. 15, to provide comments on site. The park visitors center is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The Indian River Pedestrian Bridge Project is being designed by the Federal Highway Administration with substantial National Park Service input and guidance. The purpose of this project is to maintain safe pedestrian, bicycle, and other non-motorized vehicle access across the Indian River within Sitka National Historical Park.

Although still safe, the current bridge is nearing the end of its 50-year design life and needs to be replaced to maintain this access and to address accessibility and bridge design standards that have changed since the time of the current bridge’s construction.

Individuals wishing to send written comments may e-mail them to Sitka National Historical Park Chief of Resources Brinnen Carter at brinnen_carter@nps.gov. Photos of some of the alternatives are posted in a slideshow below, but there are full-size posters of the options at the park’s visitors center with information about trail width, cost, construction materials, and more.

• Indian River Pedestrian Bridge Replacement Project Fact Sheet

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SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the morning of Thursday, Nov. 13

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The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 9:15-11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead. This month’s guest hiker is Sarah Komisar from the Sitka Conservation Society.

Normally, the group usually picks the trail on the day of the hike, but occasionally a trail is picked before the event. SAIL makes trekking poles available for hikers to use (trekking poles are great on ice or uneven terrain, and they help seniors keep their balance), and hikers are encouraged to bring cleats such as YakTrax during the icy months of winter.

SAIL offers Senior Hiking Club events for those age 60 or older once a month, usually on the second or third Thursday. There is a $5 fee, but nobody will be turned away because of finances. The hikes are open to people of all abilities and fitness levels. To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, check out our January 2013 post introducing the club.

To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, senior and adaptive kayaking trips, senior cycling events, and and a variety of other outdoors skills and survival classes, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Bridget Kratz at 747-6859 or email her at bkratz@sailinc.org. The calendar below includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• November 2014 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

City to host meeting Nov. 12 about Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project plan to construct multi-use pathway

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The City and Borough of Sitka will host a meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School (307 Kashevaroff Street) to discuss the construction of a multi-use pathway as part of the Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project.

According to Sitka senior engineer David Longtin, P.E., the plan is to “eliminate the bike lane on Edgecumbe Drive next summer and replace it with a 10-foot-wide multi-use path. The path would be separated from the road with a 6-inch-high vertical curb. The goal is to discourage wrong-way bike traffic (as our single bike lane on Edgecumbe does) and to provide an improved amenity for slower bike riders. Our intention is that commuter (i.e., fast) bike traffic continues to use the roadway.”

Wednesday’s meeting is to discuss options before more design work is done. The schedule of to have 65 percent of the design done by Dec. 2, and the full design complete by February 2015. Construction is expected to take place from March to August 2015. An artist’s rendering of the proposed project can be viewed at this link (opens as PDF document).

This project is being developed by the city, along with its design-build team consisting of S&S General Contractors and DOWL HKM. The project will remove the existing pavement and base course, conduct sub-grade improvements where required, and re-pave the entire road from Cascade Creek Road to Peterson Street.

To learn more, contact David Longtin at 747-1883 or davidl@cityofsitka.com.

• Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project handout

• Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project artist’s rendering

• Kimsham-to-Charteris proposed changes

• Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project proposed sections

Help your kids celebrate International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day on Wednesday, Oct. 8

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WalkToSchoolDay_HomepageMapNot too long ago, most of us walked or biked to school. But now, most kids arrive at school via their parents’ cars or school buses. Wednesday, Oct. 8, is International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, and Sitka parents and teachers are encouraged to help their schoolchildren walk to school that day.

In 1970, more than half of all elementary school students ages 6-11 walked to school. By 2006, only 15 percent were walking to school. Alarmed by this trend, a group called the Partnership for a Walkable America started National Walk To School Day in 1997 as a one-day event aimed at building awareness for the need for walkable communities.  In 2000, the event became international when the UK and Canada (both of which had already been promoting walking to school) and the USA joined together for the first International Walk to School Day. In addition to expanding into several other countries, the dates also have expanded and October is International Walk To School Month.

“Walking or biking to school is an excellent way to add some physical activity into your day,” said Doug Osborne, a health educator with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). “It can be a great way to start the day. Walking or biking can be a lot of fun. It’s also important to remember to be safe.”

Walking or biking to school with their children is a good way for parents to catch up on what’s happening in their children’s lives. Other benefits to walking or biking to school include less traffic, cleaner air, and friendlier communities. Walking with their children is a good way for parents see if there are things along the route that can be done to improve safety, such as improving lighting, checking crosswalks and watching for aggressive pets along the route.

International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day is a great teaching tool for safety. Parents and teachers can teach the kids about road safety rules and the importance of being visible when they walk or bike alongside the roads. They also can check their kids’ clothes and backpacks to make sure they have reflective tape on them.

Reflectors Save Lives posterReflective tape is particularly important as we enter the dark months of the winter. Students need to Be Safe, Be Seen, and reflective tape can make a big difference in their visibility. Not only are kids sometimes hard to be seen because they’re blocked by cars, but many cars in Southeast Alaska experience condensation problems during the fall and winter that make it hard to see through windshields. Reflective tape and blinking lights can make it so kids are seen hundreds of feet before they would be if they wore plain dark clothes. The Alaska Injury Prevention Center’s pedestrian safety program will mail free reflective tape to people who call (907) 929-3939. The Alaska Injury Prevention Center also produced a YouTube video that shows how reflective tape makes you easier to see.

To learn more about International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, contact your local school to see if any events are scheduled, or check with the Alaska Safe Routes To School program. The official International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day website also has a lot of information about how to set up an event for your school, including tool kits to help you arrange an event. Even if your kids don’t walk the entire way to school, you can drop them off a mile or so away and walk in with them. Many parents create walking school buses to bring several students who live in the same area to school together in one group.

U.S. Department of Transportation announces new pedestrian and bicycle safety initiative

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After seeing recent increases in the numbers of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced a national pedestrian and bicycle safety initiative during the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place Conference held Sept. 8-11 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“The data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration make it clear: even as automobile travel has never been safer, pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths are on the rise,” Foxx said. “I went to Pittsburgh this week to let folks know that I think this is a problem, and that this Department is putting together the most innovative, forward-leaning, biking-walking safety initiative ever.”

Protected-bike-laneThe Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative will try to improve biking and walking safety by providing better infrastructure. It also will provide research and tools for local governments, transportation planners, and active living advocates, so they can make their communities safer.

The plan includes assessments in every state to determine what needs to be done to make conditions safer for walkers and bicyclists. Once the assessments are done, the next step includes projects such as building protected bike lanes, building better trail networks, and even building basic sidewalks and pedestrian traffic crossings in areas where they aren’t available.

“Americans are walking and biking more and more, not just for kicks, but for sensible transportation,” Foxx said.When President Lyndon Johnson established DOT, he said ‘keeping the traveling public safe from harm’ should be our top priority. So when we talk about ‘the traveling public,’ we must include pedestrians and bicyclists.

If you are walking or bicycling, you should know that your safety is every bit as important —and just as much of a concern to the U.S. Department of Transportation — as the safety of an airplane passenger, a transit rider, or someone in a motor vehicle.

For years, the message pedestrians and bicyclists have been given is, ‘You walk or bike at your own risk; be responsible for your own safety.’

But that’s not good enough. We can’t just tell pedestrians and bicyclists, ‘Be safe,’ without recognizing that in many places there is no safe space for them to be.

After all, we don’t only tell drivers, ‘Just drive under the speed limit.’ We don’t just tell ship captains, ‘Don’t run aground.’ We make sure our highways are well-paved and well-marked, and that our sea lanes are navigable.

We have long recognized that government has a role to play by creating safe infrastructure for travel; it’s time to make sure that includes everyone.”

For the most part, walking and biking advocates welcomed the initiative. But they also feel it needs a solid financial commitment from Congress to work. The following quote is from a press release from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC).

“Secretary Foxx’s announcement and the U.S. DOT’s new commitment to safety are important first steps, but without a financial commitment from Congress, state and local governments will not have the resources necessary to provide safe facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists. RTC will continue to work with members of Congress to see that state and local governments receive the funding they need to connect networks, provide specific solutions to improve safety and monitor safety performance. The U.S. DOT’s initiative provides us with a newly engaged federal partner. Working together with our local advocates and the U.S. DOT, we can work toward a world where pedestrian and bicyclist injuries are a thing of the past.”

“The 12-page document is short on details but long on potential, with the bonus of a hand outstretched to partners to help flesh it out and implement it,” Martha Roskowski, Vice President for Local Innovation for PeopleForBikes.org, wrote in an analysis of the initiative. “The breadth and scope of new efforts to increase walking and biking and reduce walking and biking fatalities is encouraging.”

Smart Growth America praised the new plan. “This approach is right in line with the work of Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition, which helps communities create streets that are safe, comfortable, and convenient for everyone. In May, the Coalition highlighted America’s need for safer streets with the release of Dangerous by Design 2014, a report that spotlights the issue of pedestrian safety as well as the factors that make walking dangerous. The report also identifies tools, policies and practices that can help put an end to the decades-long neglect of pedestrian safety. USDOT’s new campaign builds on a Complete Streets approach and will hopefully make streets safer for everyone who uses them. We applaud Secretary Foxx for making this crucial issue a national priority.”

• Safer People, Safer Streets Iniatiative

Sitka Health Summit planning day is Oct. 3 at Harrigan Centennial Hall

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NewSitkaHealthSummitLogoJoin us for the eighth annual Sitka Health Summit planning day, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 3, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The Sitka Health Summit got its start in 2007 when then-Sitka Community Hospital CEO Moe Chaudry and then-SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Vice President of Hospital Services Frank Sutton decided they needed to bridge the gaps between Sitka’s largest two health services. They launched the Sitka Health Summit, with the help of other supporters in Sitka, as a way to improve community wellness, honor local wellness champions, and more.

One of the highlights of the Sitka Health Summit has been the annual community wellness planning day. During planning day, Sitka residents get together to discuss the health needs of the community and create community wellness projects to address these needs.

Over the years there have been a variety of Sitka Health Summit projects — create a local market for local fish and produce, build a Sitka community greenhouse, become a Bicycle Friendly Community, become a Walk Friendly Community, encourage more kids and families to get outdoors for recreation, support a community health and wellness center (Hames), plant fruit trees around town, get more local fish into school lunches, build a Choose Respect mural, Revitalize Sitka, the Sick-a-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, and Park Prescriptions. The 2013 Sitka Health Summit projects were Together for a Meth-Free Sitka and Sitka Kitch (a project to create a community rental kitchen and improve Sitka’s emergency food storage capacity). The 2014 Sitka Health Summit will choose two new projects, which will receive $2,000 in seed money to get started.

To register for the Sitka Heath Summit planning day, go to http://www.sitkahealthsummitak.org/ or call 738-0468. A free lunch with locally sourced food will be provided.