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