Help your kids celebrate International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day on Wednesday, Oct. 5

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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. 5, is International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, and Sitka parents and teachers are encouraged to help their schoolchildren walk to school on this 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, Sitka Community Hospital Director of Health Promotion. “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.”

WBTSD_12inch_ColorWalking 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.

Scenes from the 22nd annual Running of the Boots held on Sept. 17

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Angie and Ryan Hutchins make for a jumbo-sized pair of XtraTufs as they run past St. Michael The Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral during the Running of the Boots on Sept. 17, 2016, in Sitka.

It was rainy in Sitka on Saturday, Sept. 17 (stop the presses), but the rain abated long enough for us to hold the 22nd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network.

racestartThis year there was a new start-finish line and course, as our big tent was set up in Totem Square park and runners ran along Lincoln Street from Totem Square to the stoplight and back. We had a shark and fisherman, a jumbo-sized pair of XtraTufs, a young lad as Captain America, a young lady as Strawberry Shortcake, and more in the costume contest.

The Running of the Boots is an annual fundraising event for the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. The Sitka Local Foods Network operates the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, the Sitka Farmers Market, and hosts an education program that includes the family garden mentoring project.

The Running of the Boots is part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association, where Sitka residents were served hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon and cole slaw to celebrate the end of the summer.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also hosted a produce booth at the Running of the Boots, with produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. By the way, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt said we still have enough produce growing that she can sell 5-10 weekly boxes of produce through the next month. She said the boxes will run $30, and will likely contain about four pounds of carrots, two pounds of potatoes,  two pounds of beets, one bundle of chard, one head of lettuce, with other possibilities such as cucumbers, basil, a half-dozen eggs, etc. She also has an excess of zucchini. To learn more, contact Laura at ljschmidt835@hotmail.com.

A slideshow of scenes from the 22nd annual Running of the Boots is posted below. Click this link for a story on KCAW-Raven Radio about the event.

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Sitka Trail Works to host trail maintenance day on Saturday, Sept. 17

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SitkaTrailWorksLogoSitka Trail Works board members are hosting a trail maintenance day at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, meeting at the parking area on the uphill side of the road just beyond Whale Park.

The effort will focus on pulling young alders on the ocean-side of the Sawmill Creek Road separated multi-use path, past Whale Park, to keep the view open. Participants are asked to bring work gloves and five-gallon buckets.

For further information, please call the Sitka Trail Works office at 747-7244.

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 15

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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 1-3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15 (note time change from usual schedule). Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead for Mosquito Cove Loop.

Normally, the group 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 Steve Hutchinson at 747-6859 or email her at shutchinson@sailinc.org. The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for September 2016

22nd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network

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It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and gussy them up. The 22nd annual Running of the Boots begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the big tent near Totem Square park on Lincoln Street. (NOTE: This is a change from last year’s meeting place and what was previously announced for this year’s event.)

While the meeting place is different this year, the actual race course will be roughly the same as the past three races but with a different start-finish line. This change allows the race to be a bigger part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association. In addition to the Running of the Boots, the Season’s-End Celebration includes a lunch from noon to 3 p.m. for Sitka residents featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, and fish. Instead of being free, this year people are asked to make a $2 donation to the activities funds at Sitka and Mount Edgecumbe high schools when they get their lunch.

“We’re going to have a blast this year under a huge tent right at Totem Square park, across from City Hall,” race organizer Kerry MacLane said. “This isn’t just for kids. Some of our most memorable entries have been adults. This is a chance to accessorize your boots, or go all out and come as your most wearable art creature from outer space. We’ll have great live music, hot chocolate, and there is even a great local lunch after oodles of prizes have been awarded.”

So what is the Running of the Boots? It’s Southeast Alaska’s answer to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls.” Sitkans wear zany costumes and XtraTufs — Southeast Alaska’s distinctive rubber boots (aka, Sitka Sneakers). The Running of the Boots raises funds for the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit organization that hosts the Sitka Farmers Market and advocates for community gardens, a community greenhouse, sustainable uses of traditional subsistence foods and education for Sitka gardeners.

The Running of the Boots is a short race for fun and not for speed, even though one of the many prize categories is for the fastest boots. Other prize categories include best-dressed boots, zaniest costume, best couple, best kids group and more. The new course starts by Totem Square park, and heads down Harbor Drive and up Maksoutov Street before cutting by St. Michael’s Cathedral and finishing down Lincoln Street toward City Hall and the start-finish line.

The entry fee for the Running of the Boots is $5 per person and $20 per family, and people can register for the race starting at 10 a.m. Costume judging starts about 10:30 a.m., and runners hit the streets at 11 a.m. As usual, local merchants have donated bushels of prizes for the costume contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a Sitka Farmers Market booth with fresh veggies for sale. The booth takes debit cards, WIC vouchers and Alaska Quest electronic benefit cards.

“Not only is the Running of the Boots a blast, it supports the local foods movement,” MacLane said. “This is a must-see annual change-of-the season tradition in Sitka.”

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or 747-7888, or by email at maclanekerry@yahoo.com. We also need several volunteers to help set up and take down the race (two needed) and to judge the costumes (two needed). Contact MacLane to learn how to volunteer.

Historical information about the race (through 2005) can be found online at http://www.runningoftheboots.org/. Info about the Sitka Local Foods Network and more recent Running of the Boots events (2008-15) is online at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (type Running of the Boots into the search bar at the top of the page). Click this link to see a slideshow of scenes from the 2015 Running of the Boots.

Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and follow our Twitter page at https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods (@SitkaLocalFoods) to stay updated on Sitka Local Foods Network activities.

Comment period open for first-phase completion of Sitka Sea Walk into Sitka National Historical Park

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Sitka National Historical Park will keep the public comment period on the Sitka Sea Walk Phase 1 completion project open until Sept. 30. Public comments will then be compiled and analyzed. Park managers will decide on an alternative in part on advice and opinion received through public comment.

SitkaSeaWalkEndBySNHPJPGThe Sitka Sea Walk, which opened on Oct. 18, 2013, runs parallel to Lincoln Street, from the Crescent Harbor Parking lot to Sitka National Historical Park. The unfinished portion, from near Merrill Rock on Lincoln Street and Kelly Street to the Visitor Center, has three possible options for completion. Sitka National Historical Park held two public meetings to discuss the project on Aug. 23 and Aug. 30.  The alternatives can be viewed during regular Visitor Center hours at 106 Metlakatla Street in Sitka. The alternatives also are discussed in the Aug. 30 meeting link above.

In other recent news, the Alaska Transportation Alternatives Program (ATAP) announced on July 28 it was awarding $1.36 million to Sitka to build the second phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, which will run from Harrigan Centennial Hall to the lightering dock by the O’Connell Bridge.

Comments can be taken in-person at the visitor center, delivered by e-mail to nps_sitk_website_contact@nps.gov, or received by mail sent to 103 Monastery Street, Sitka AK, 99835. Comments by mail should be post marked no later than Sept. 30. For more information please call the visitor center at 907-747-0110.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more about the Sitka National Historical Park at http://http://www.nps.gov/sitk or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark.

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Sitka National Historical Park to host second meeting about completing first phase of Sitka Sea Walk

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Sitka National Historical Park will host the second of two meetings for public participation regarding the completion of the first phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, the end where the pathway enters the national park.

The meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center, where Chief of Resources Brinnen Carter, will discuss the pros and cons of three options for the project. The first meeting, which was part of an open house, was on Aug. 23.

SitkaSeaWalkEndBySNHPJPGThe first phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, which opened in October 2013, extends from the Crescent Harbor parking lot to Sitka National Historical Park, running above the harbor parallel to Lincoln Street. The unfinished portion, from near Merrill Rock on Lincoln Street (and the intersection with Kelly Street) to the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, has three possible options for completion. The public meetings will present the options, answer questions, and gather public opinion.

The first option (with a projected cost of $329,732) completely rebuilds the sidewalk, widening it to match the width of the Sitka Sea Walk as it goes into the park. The second option ($490,142), and the most popular option among those at the Aug. 23 meeting, is a boardwalk that will take the Sitka Sea Walk down by Merrill Rock and closer to the beach, away from the street, as walkers enter the park. The third option ($180,428) only replaces the concrete at the beginning and end of the walk, but leaves a narrow sidewalk next to a retaining wall for much of the section.

This section of the Sitka Sea Walk is on federal land controlled by the National Park Service, which is why the Sitka National Historical Park is holding these meetings instead of the city. Carter said the Alaska Federal Lands Access Program will cover the costs, regardless of the preferred choice. While the boardwalk (third option) will have a shorter life span than the other two concrete options (50 years vs. 75 years), it does offer several safety advantages since walkers won’t be crowding the streets near a blind corner as they do now when cruise ships are in town. Carter said the intent is to match the current design of the Sitka Sea Walk as much as possible.

For more information, please call the visitor center at 907-747-0110. Carter said Sitka residents who can’t make Tuesday’s meeting can stop by the visitor center and submit their comments by Tuesday, Sept. 6. The design will be completed this fall, with construction expected to be finished by October 2017.

Schematics showing the three options are posted as a slideshow below.

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