Scenes from the 18th annual Parade of the Species through downtown Sitka

There were squid kids, a raven clan, and jellyfish galore during the 18th annual Parade of the Species, held Friday, April 20, through downtown Sitka as part of Earth Day and Earth Week activities hosted by the Sitka Conservation Society.

This year’s parade started from Totem Square and finished at the Sitka Sound Science Center, where there were a variety of activities for the kids such as making masks or drinking fresh smoothies.

A slideshow of photos from the parade is posted below.

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Sitka’s Charles Bingham selected to participate in Walking College Fellowship program

America Walks, a national advocacy organization working to empower communities to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk, announced today that Charles Bingham of Walk Sitka has been awarded a Walking College Fellowship as part of the 2018 program.

The Fellowship will enable Bingham and other advocates from around the country to participate in a five-month training program designed to strengthen local efforts to make communities more walkable and livable.

“We are delighted to welcome Charles Bingham as a member of the Walking College,” said Emilie Bahr, Walking College Manager with America Walks, “It was a very competitive application process and he will be a great addition to the 2018 class. We look forward to developing his skills and are excited to see his work grow.”

Bingham will complete a six-module distance-education training program this summer, followed by an independent study project in Sitka, and then attend Walk/Bike/Places in New Orleans in the fall. He is the first Alaskan selected to the Walking College Fellowship.

“One of the goals of the first Sitka Health Summit (2007) was to become a walk and bicycle friendly community,” said Bingham, a former newspaper journalist who now works as a freelance media/public relations and grant-writing specialist. “In 2008, Sitka became Alaska’s first official Bicycle Friendly Community (Bronze level), but at the time there wasn’t a similar national program for walking. We repeated our Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2012, and moved up to the Silver level in 2016. In 2013, we became Alaska’s first official Walk Friendly Community with a Bronze level designation, and we renewed our Bronze level designation in 2017. Hopefully the knowledge I gain from being a Walking College Fellow will help Sitka upgrade to the Silver or Gold level in the Walk Friendly Community program. I also think I’ll be able to apply the knowledge to my cycling advocacy work.”

Bingham wrote Sitka’s two renewal Bicycle Friendly Community applications (he helped on the first) and also wrote Sitka’s two Walk Friendly Communities applications. In addition to coordinating the Walk Sitka program that came out of the Sitka Health Summit, he also is part of the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition.  He builds the Walk Sitka and Sitka Cycling websites (https://walksitka.wordpress.com and http://sitkacycling.wordpress.com) and administrates the corresponding Facebook pages for each (https://www.facebook.com/WalkSitka/ and https://www.facebook.com/SitkaCycling/). Bingham moderates the Alaska Bicycling and Walking Advocacy Group on Facebook, too.

The Walking College curriculum has been designed to expand the capacity of local advocates to be effective community change agents. Topics include the science behind the benefits of walking, evaluation of built environments, as well as communication skills and building relationships with stakeholders and decision makers. Fellows work with other members of their class and a set of experienced mentors to develop the knowledge and skills needed to create community change. At the conclusion of the Walking College, Fellows will develop a Walking Action Plan for implementation using their new skills.

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About America Walks: America Walks, a nonprofit national organization, is leading the way in empowering communities to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable walking conditions for all. We provide a voice for walking and walkable communities with federal agencies, provide strategy support, training and technical assistance to statewide, regional, and local organizations, and serve as the convener of the national Every Body Walk! Collaborative. Together, America Walks and the Every Body Walk! Collaborative boast 700 allied organizations who across the nation are working to increase walking and support walkable communities for all members. More at http://www.americawalks.org.

About Walk Sitka: Walk Sitka originated from the Sitka Health Summit, when Sitka residents chose making Sitka a more walkable community as one of its first community wellness projects. In 2013, Sitka became the first Alaska city to earn a Bronze level or higher designation from the Walkable Friendly Communities program. In 2017, Sitka renewed its Bronze level designation. Walk Sitka works with a variety of community partners to promote walking events, education, safety upgrades, and more. More at https://walksitka.wordpress.com.

Walk MS Sitka on May 5 will raise money for multiple sclerosis research and awareness

Sitka will host its fourth Walk MS event at 1 p.m. (registration at 12:45 p.m.) on Saturday, May 5, at Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. This is the 28th 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.

From left, Dillon Peavey, 9, Jaden Costelo 9, and Jaira Costelo, 8, lead the first Walk MS Sitka event Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. About 100 people participated in the walk from the Gary Paxton Industrial Park to Whale Park. Although donations were accepted, organizers Patricia Atkinson and Colleen Dahlquist said the event was held to raise awareness of the chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

From left, Dillon Peavey, 9, Jaden Costelo 9, and Jaira Costelo, 8, lead the first Walk MS Sitka event Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. About 100 people participated in the walk from the Gary Paxton Industrial Park to Whale Park. Although donations were accepted, organizers Patricia Atkinson and Colleen Dahlquist said the event was held to raise awareness of the chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

“People participating in the Walk MS Sitka 2018 are showing their love and support for people who are affected by multiple sclerosis,” Walk MS Sitka local co-coordinator Patricia Atkinson said. “People can sign up ahead of time on the Walk MS Sitka homepage, or at the walk. Donations are welcome, and stay in the Pacific Northwest to support research, education, and individuals.”

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 support the walk online, go to the Walk MS Sitka DIY fundraising page. To find other larger Walk MS events around the country, go to http://www.walkms.org. 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.

“Rain or shine, show your support for people living with MS and join us!” Atkinson said.

For more information, contact local coordinators Colleen Dahlquist at (907) 738-0477 or Patricia Atkinson at (907) 317-0619 in Sitka, or contact the National MS Society at (800) 344-4867. You also can like the Walk MS Sitka page on Facebook to get updates.

• Multiple Sclerosis 101 (facts about MS)

SEARHC, Sitka Tribe host Walk To Keep Our Children Safe on Saturday, April 21

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Join the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Sitka Tribe of Alaska from 3-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, as we walk from Crescent Harbor to Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi to inspire our community to get involved and help prevent child abuse.

After the walk, enjoy drumming, dance performances, art activities for the kids, and snacks at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi. For more information, please contact Monica Chase at 966.8307 or mchase@searhc.org.

Sitka Trail Works releases weekend guided hike schedule for the 2018 spring and summer

Sitka Trail Works will kick off its 2018 summer series of weekend hikes on Saturday, May 5, with a moderate to strenuous bike ride of up to 10 miles along the Cross Trail. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Indian River Trailhead (near the corner of Indian River Road and Yaw Drive) to join the ride.

That will be followed on Sunday, May 13, by a short hike on the Ben Grussendorf Forest and Muskeg Estuary Trail. Meet at 1:30 p.m. at the gravel boat launch at Starrigavan State Park to join the hike.

The series of weekend hikes are led by various members of Sitka Trail Works, and there also are occasional geocaching events, bike rides and kayak trips on the schedule. Most of the hikes near town are free (donations are accepted), but some of the hikes require a boat trip and those have fees. The schedule runs through the end of August.

On National Trails Day (Saturday, June 2), Sitka Trail Works and other groups will do repair work to trails TBA. Tools will be available, but you should bring gloves, pruners and toppers, if you have them.

In other news, Sitka Trail Works recently received funding for Phase 6 of the Cross Trail, and construction is expected to start in FY 2019. But in order to claim the $1.8 million to finish the last 2.6 miles of the Cross Trail, Sitka Trail Works needs to raise $20,000 in matching funds. In addition, Sitka Trail Works plans a major maintenance project on the Indian River Trail during the 2018 summer, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and Juneau Trail Mix.

Don’t forget to check the Sitka Trail Works website for current trail condition reports.

• Spring 2018 Sitka Trail Works newsletter

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Thursday, April 26

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, April 26. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the Blue Lake Road trailhead.

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 Clare Kelly at 747-6859 or email her at ckelly@sailinc.org. The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for April 2018

Alaska Department of Fish & Game to host ‘Bear Aware’ presentation at Sitka Public Library

Brown bears are beginning to stir on the outskirts of town, so the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is reminding residents to practice diligent bear awareness.

Residents should make household garbage unavailable to bears, prior to their arrival. Pro-actively removing attractants before bears emerge from hibernation will encourage them to seek natural food sources and help alleviate problems associated with food-conditioned bears later this summer. ADF&G regulations prohibit negligently leaving out food and garbage in a manner that attracts bears. Local ordinances prohibit putting trash out until the morning of pick up.

To help prevent bear issues this summer, ADF&G suggests the following:

  • Garbage: Store trash inside buildings or in bear-proof containers; keep it secured until the morning of scheduled pick up. To minimize garbage odors, bones and meat scraps should be frozen until the day of pick up or until the items can be properly disposed. Remind neighbors to do the same.
  • Electric fences: Properly constructed electric fences are a highly effective deterrent to keep bears out of gardens, fish smokers, and away from chicken coops and domestic animals.
  • Barbecues: Clean grills after each use.
  • Pets: Feed pets indoors or clean up excess and spilled food between meals. Store pet food indoors. Never sic your dog on a bear.
  • Bird Feeders: Take feeders down April through October.
  • Gardens: Plant gardens in the open, away from cover and game trails. Compost only raw vegetable matter and turn it over frequently.

Hikers, walkers, and joggers are reminded to be alert for bears, especially during early mornings and late evenings. Be safe and bear smart by traveling in groups and keeping dogs on a leash.

ADF&G will be giving a free bear safety and awareness presentation at 6 p.m. on Thurday, April 19, at the Sitka Public Library. The community is invited to attend.

For additional information and questions, contact the Sitka ADF&G office at 747-5449.