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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.