ASSESSING SAFETY: Top photo: Paul Wistrand of the Federal Highway Authority’s Juneau office, left, and Mary Ann Peterson of the Celebrate Katlian Street: A Vibrant Community project from the 2014 Sitka Health Summit assess the walking safety of Katlian Street on Wednesday, May 6. Right photo: Mary Ann Peterson shows Paul Wistrand how a curb cut is a tripping hazard on Katlian Street. The tour was part of a safety assessment conducted through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx mandated federal, state and local communities do walking and cycling safety assessments, and Wistrand said they chose Sitka for Alaska’s first safety assessments. In addition to Wednesday’s walking safety assessment of Katlian Street, Wistrand also led a group of local and state officials on a walking assessment from downtown to the Alaska Raptor Center and a cycling assessment of Halibut Point Road on Thursday, May 7.
Sitka will join the party when it hosts its first Walk MS event at 9:30 a.m. (registration at 9 a.m.) on Saturday, May 30, at Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. This is the 25th anniversary of Walk MS, a national series of walks to raise money for programs and services, research, treatment and awareness of multiple sclerosis.
Walk MS Sitka will feature a 1.5-mile walk along the new coastal multi-use path from Sawmill Cove Industrial Park to Whale Park. Transportation will be available to take people back to the walk’s start line, or people can walk back to Sawmill Cove Industrial Park.
“Many of us have friends or family who are affected by multiple sclerosis,” Walk MS Sitka local coordinator Patricia Atkinson said. “Walk MS is a national event, held in many cities around the country and in Alaska. A small group of people in Sitka decided to create a fun local opportunity to raise awareness and raise funds to support people living with MS here in Sitka. Walk MS uses the color orange as a theme, and people are encouraged to make costumes or just enjoy the beautiful walk along our Sitka shoreline.”
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the central nervous system. MS can cause many symptoms, including blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness, and more. These problems may come and go or persist and worsen over time. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it.
To register online, go to http://www.walkms.org, find the Ketchikan AK page (zip code 99901), and register as a team or an individual (please make sure you put Sitka in the team title when you register). People also can register onsite at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. If you can’t make the actual walk, you still can go online and pledge your financial support. All money raised in Alaska stays in Alaska.
“We started organizing too late to get our own page, so we have to use Ketchikan’s this year. Next year, we’ll have our own,” Atkinson said. “Rain or shine, show your support for people living with MS and join us!”
For more information, contact Patricia Atkinson in Sitka at (907) 317-0619 or contact National MS Society Community Engagement Manager Jessica Lavoie at (907) 331-0179 or Jessica.Lavoie@nmss.org. You also can like the Walk MS Sitka page on Facebook to get updates.
If you are interested in observing and learning about the migrant and resident bird species of Sitka National Historical Park, join a park ranger for free guided bird walks Saturday mornings during the month of May. Spring migration bird walks will be held from 8-10 a.m. on Saturdays, May 9, 16, 23 and 30.
These free bird walks are open to beginner and experienced bird watchers and will offer participants the chance to identify and learn about the abundant bird species that depend on the park’s coastal and rain forest ecosystems.
Participants are encouraged to dress warmly and to be prepared to spend two hours outside in variable weather conditions. Participants who have binoculars are encouraged to bring them to the program. There will be a limited number of binoculars available for participants to use during the program and field guides will be provided.
The programs will begin and conclude at the park’s visitor center. For more information about the park’s spring migration bird walks, please contact Ryan Carpenter at (907) 747-0121 or at email@example.com. Don’t forget to pick up a Park Prescriptions punchcard from the park’s visitors center before the bird walks.
Sitka Trail Works will kick off its 2015 summer series of weekend hikes on Saturday, May 9, with a a lesson on geocaching taught by new board members Gio Villanueva and Jeff Cranson. After a short tutorial at 8:30 a.m. at the Sitka High School entrance to the Cross Trail, participants will go discover some local geocaches (bring a smartphone or GPS device, if you have one).
The series of weekend hikes are led by various members of Sitka Trail Works, and there also are occasional bike rides and kayak trips on the schedule. Most of the hikes near town are free, but some of the hikes require a boat trip and those have fees. The schedule runs through the end of August.
The City and Borough of Sitka and Sitka Trail Works recently announced the completion of one section of reconstruction of the Sitka Cross Trail, and a new section now is under reconstruction. The Cross Trail will be open during the work, which is expected to be finished by November 2015, but hikers should use caution in that area. In addition, Sitka Trail Works recently received a grant to help repair extensive trail damage caused last fall by a Sept. 18 landslide on the Herring Cove Trail.
On National Trails Day (Saturday, June 6), Sitka Trail Works and other groups will work on several Sitka state parks, which had their support zeroed out in this year’s state budget. Volunteers are needed for this work party at the Mosquito Cove Trail on National Trails Day. People also are encouraged to write letters to Gov. Bill Walker about the funding cut, which should be dropped off at the Alaska Department of Parks office on Halibut Point Road near the Halibut Point Recreation Area.
Don’t forget to check the Sitka Trail Works website for current trail condition reports.
The Sitka Girls On The Run program will host celebrate the end of the season with the 2015 One in a Million five-kilometer run from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 2, with the start-finish line at the Sitka Sea Walk basketball courts. The fun run and ceremony will honor the program’s reaching one million participants.
This is a family friendly event, and tutus and bright colors are encouraged, but not required. Volunteers and cheerleaders also are needed so they can make the event extra special for our participants. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Volunteer — there are quite a few volunteer positions available, some of which also allow volunteers to run in the event (all allow volunteers to be cheerleaders). Volunteer time requirements vary by assignment. Please register at http://tinyurl.com/Sitka5K2015. Please contact Elena Gustafson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 747-3370 with any questions.
- Cheerleader — position yourself along the course between 3:30 and 4:30 to cheer the girls on as they run. The run starts at the Sitka Sea Walk basketball courts, runs along the Sitka Sea Walk and through the Sitka National Historical Park’s Totem Trails and back, so there are plenty of places to cheer people on. Bring a sign and bright colors and a positive attitude.
Girls On The Run is a life-changing empowerment program for girls in third through fifth grade. We teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory five-kilometer (3.1-mile) running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.
The 12-week program is one of several in the region. GOTR of Southeast Alaska operates Girls On The Run programs in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Yakutat. Check out what the program is all about. Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV) hosts the GOTR program in Sitka.
Please help spread the word and encourage family members and friends to make the 2015 One in a Million 5K Fun Run a success.
The Alaska Airlines station in Sitka has been hit hard by cancer in recent years, which is why the local airline employees will host the Eighth Annual Sitka Sue Walk at 8:30 a.m. (meet at 8:15 a.m.) on Saturday, April 25, at the Rocky Gutierrez Airport.
This annual walk honors the memory of long-time Alaska Airlines employee Sue “Sitka Sue” Frank, who passed away in 2007 from lung cancer. In 2012, the airline lost another Sitka employee, John Gassman, to cancer. Saturday’s five-kilometer walk from the airport to the Sitka Fire Hall and back will honor both and others in a “Flight to Fight” cancer. Participants can walk or run one way or round trip, and this is a dog-friendly event.
“We’ll be remembering those lost, supporting those in the battle and celebrating with those who have beat cancer,” event organizer Sheri Buggins said.
Sitka Sue was known for her walks around Sitka, and her goal was to walk at least seven miles a day. After her death, a park bench was placed in her honor in front of the Sitka Fire Hall, where firefighters fondly remember the many meals she cooked for for them over the years. After her death, the local Alaska Airlines employees dedicated their new employee wellness walking program to her.
Donations of $10 are suggested, with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society‘s Relay For Life of Sitka, which will be held June 19-20 at Sitka’s Moller Park track/football field. This is one of several ACS Relay For Life events around the country (here’s more info about the Sitka event from this KCAW-Raven Radio interview in February 2013).
Alaska Airlines will have a team at the Sitka Sue Walk, and there will be luminarias to honor Sue and John. Healthy snacks will be served. For more information, contact Sheri Buggins at 738-0254.
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, April 23. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead.
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 ice 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 email@example.com. The calendar below includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.