City looks to improve sidewalk safety for people who walk in Sitka

photo 4b

photo 2Have you seen colored stripes marking sidewalk imperfections in Sitka lately? This is happening to make Sitka sidewalks are level and don’t produce trip hazards.

The City and Borough of Sitka Streets Maintenance Division is out and about ensuring  the city sidewalks are safe for pedestrians. Improvements are currently taking place on Lincoln Street and Barracks Street, with plans to continue work throughout town as needed.

“We encourage citizens to call if they know of any areas where the sidewalk structure needs attention or  appears unsafe. Saving money and the safety of citizens and tourists are top priorities,” said Nick Kepler, maintenance and operations superintendent.

After an internal audit of the downtown sidewalks, Kepler determined that many areas did not meet Sidewalk Safety Standards. The department has been utilizing a concrete grinding machine to smooth transitions between varying height sections of concrete slabs. Extending the life of the existing sidewalks was chosen to conserve funds, rather than undertake an expensive removal and replacement process.

The improvements should be completed by spring.

For more information or concerns over certain sidewalks, contact the Streets Maintenance Division at 747-4041. You also can use the city’s online maintenance form.

Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140 launches safety survey over Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection


HPRPetersonIntersectionLookingNorthThe Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140 recently launched an intersection safety survey for the Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection near McDonald’s.

This particular intersection is on one of Sitka’s busiest roads (Halibut Point Road, aka HPR), and Peterson Street is on a hill that leads to three different schools (Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Sitka High School, and The SEER School). In January 2015, it also was the site of a pickup truck-bicycle collision that resulted in then-15-year-old Cody Bergman being medevacked to Seattle with serious injuries.

In March 2015, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) posted safety flags for the intersection (and another intersection in front of Blatchley Middle School), but many residents in Sitka want to see more, such as a stop light, lower speed limits, or better pedestrian-crossing markers.

“We are hoping to get some feedback from Sitkans so we can give DOT a push to review the safety of that intersection,” the troop wrote in an email (which didn’t identify the writer). “Obviously budgets are tight, but safety should be a priority.”

The safety survey asks people if they have any stories or experiences they want to contribute. Comments can be left in boxes at the Highliner Coffee Shop or Backdoor Cafe, emailed to, or submitted on the troop’s website. The comments will be compiled and forwarded to the Alaska DOT for review.



Never mind the weather, Winter Walk Day is Wednesday, Feb. 3


In recent years many people have heard and/or participated in International Walk To School Day in early October. But did you know there’s a Winter Walk Day on Wednesday, Feb. 3?

Winter Walk Day was started in Canada, and is celebrated by school children, office-workers, families and community groups. While there is no national Winter Walk To School Day in the United States (yet), in recent years events have spread to Vermont, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine and other cold-weather states, and some parts of Wisconsin dedicated the entire month of February as Winter Walk To School Month. The main focus is to get people up and moving, preferably outdoors, so they stay healthier. The goal is to go for a walk lasting at least 15 minutes.

(FYI, for those students who prefer to bike to school, your day is coming later in February. This year marks the first International Winter Bike To School Day on Friday, Feb. 12, which is the same day as International Winter Bike To Work Day. Watch for details on Sitka events soon at our Sitka Cycling website.)

List of walking benefits from KidSport Alberta

List of walking benefits from KidSport Alberta

Living in Alaska, it’s easy to hibernate indoors when the weather turns cold. But staying inside and not exercising can hurt your health. That’s why many Alaskans say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.” If we let bad weather keep us from doing things we’d never get anything done.

So how can people in Sitka celebrate Winter Walk Day on Feb. 3? Parents can walk their kids to school (if you don’t live near your children’s school you can drive to about a mile away from the school and walk from there). Other options are to go for a family walk after dinner, go hike one of Sitka’s trails, or get out and take a lunchtime walk. Just put one foot in front of the other and repeat as often as you can.

For those of you who worry about it might get cold, here are some tips for cold-weather walking:

  • Keep hands and head covered to prevent heat loss
  • On really cold days wear a scarf over your face and mouth
  • Wear warm, waterproof boots (in Sitka, you might need a pair of ice cleats on icy days)
  • Wear a warm coat that deflects the wind (in Sitka, make sure it’s waterproof due to our frequent rain)
  • Woolen clothing helps to retain the heat (avoid cotton)
  • Wear clothing or carry knapsacks with reflective material – it’s important to be seen (check with the SEARHC or Sitka Community Hospital injury prevention departments for info about free reflective tape)
  • If possible, change wet clothes at school – tuck an extra pair of socks and mitts into knapsacks
  • Below -25oC (-9ºF) is considered too cold for walking so move your walk indoors or select another day for outdoor activities or walking to school

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the morning of Thursday, Dec. 17

Senior Hiking Club December 2015

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 1-3 p.m. (note time change) on Thursday, Dec. 17. 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 Claire Sanchez at 747-6859 or email her at The calendar below includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• December 2015 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

SAIL and Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program to offer hiking club event on Thursday, Dec. 17

December SAIL and 4H hike

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) recently announced a partnership with the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program to create a hiking club that will meet once a month. This month’s hike will be from 3:45-5:15 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Cross Trail trailhead located behind Sitka High School.

The SAIL and 4-H Hiking Club is part of SAIL’s Youth Adventure Club program, with two monthly events (only one is the hike) on Wednesdays for youth of all abilities ages 7-14. SAIL Youth Adventure Club events have a $10 fee, but nobody will be turned away due to finances. Pick-up service is available from various Sitka schools with advance arrangements.

To learn more about the SAIL Youth Adventure Club, 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 Claire Sanchez at 747-6859 or email her at The calendar below includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

The Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (which operates the Alaska 4-H program throughout the state). For more information about the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program, contact Mary Wood or Molly Johnson of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or or

• December 2015 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

Sitka National Historical Park hosts winter bird walk on Saturday, Dec. 12

Winter Bird Walk Poster 2015 (2)

WesternSandpiperAre you interested in viewing, identifying and learning about Sitka’s winter bird residents? Do you need a refresher before participating in the Christmas Bird Count?

If so, you are in luck! People of all ages and levels of birdwatching experience are invited to participate in a free winter bird walk from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, at Sitka National Historical Park. Participants will meet inside the Visitor Center and then explore the park viewing birds throughout the park’s various ecosystems.

Interested parties should dress warmly and be prepared to spend the majority of their time outside in variable weather conditions. Participants who have binoculars are encouraged to bring them. A limited number of binoculars and field guides will be available for participants to borrow during the event.

For more information, please contact Ryan Carpenter at (907) 747-0121 or at

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 408 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more about Sitka National Historical Park at or visit the park’s Facebook page at

Alaska DOT&PF to host meeting about Sawmill Creek Road resurfacing and pedestrian improvement project

12-10-15 Poster

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) will host a meeting from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Sealing Cove Business Center (106 Alice Loop Road, on Japonski Island) to discuss the upcoming Sawmill Creek Road resurfacing and pedestrian/bicycle improvement project.

This project has been listed on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for several years, but the state was waiting for the city to finish its Hollywood Way and Baranof Road projects before starting this one. Now that those projects, which involved fixing water and sewer infrastructure below the roads, are done, the plan is to tackle the Sawmill Creek Road project starting in Fiscal Year 2017.

According to the project description (on Page 274 of the 2016-19 STIP), the Sawmill Creek Road project will “Improve Sawmill Creek Road to make it more accessible to pedestrians including those with disabilities and improve mobility of bikers. This project will widen sidewalks on the north side of Sawmill Creek Road from the roundabout at HPR/LAKE/SCR to Jeff Davis. Narrow (car) travel lanes and add 4-foot bike lanes. Install concrete median to better delineate SCR and DeGroff. Resurface the entire project length. Make the connection from the existing bike path to the Jarvis crosswalk ADA-compliant.”

The meeting will be hosted by the project’s design team for the purpose of introducing the project and to seek public input for the preliminary plan. For more information, contact Chris Schelb in Juneau at 465-4447 or