SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Thursday, June 21

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, June 21. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the Beaver Lake Trail 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 The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for June 2018


Please remember to keep the sidewalks clear of cars, garbage cans, vegetation, etc., for walkers

On my walk to a meeting at the Sitka Public Library this afternoon, I had an encounter with a young driver who had parked her SUV so it was blocking the sidewalk, forcing me to step into the road to get around the vehicle, only to find a car was coming my way so I had to hop back onto the sidewalk until the other car passed by.

I reminded the young lady that parking on the sidewalk is illegal in Alaska [13 AAC 02.340 (d)(1)(B)], and her reply was “it’s just for a couple of minutes.” In the meantime, I and other walkers had to step into traffic to get around her vehicle. If there had been someone in a wheelchair trying to get by at the same time, the person in the wheelchair wouldn’t have been able to get around the car because the curbs are high and the angle is too steep for a wheelchair.

After my meeting at the library, I picked up a copy of today’s Daily Sitka Sentinel and noticed an item (at 10:54 a.m.) in the Police Blotter where someone else had an issue with a car parked in the sidewalk and the Sitka Police Department had to call the vehicle owner to get him to move the car.

A maze of trash cans and potted plants makes walking difficult in front of the Pioneer Bar on Katlian Street.

I’ve been carless in Sitka for more than a decade, and finding a car, boat, delivery truck, or something else blocking the sidewalk is a frequent problem. I can understand the “I’ll just be a minute” mentality, but this is a dangerous practice, which is why there are laws against parking on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is supposed to be the safe place for walkers, and it’s no longer safe if people have to walk into traffic to get around a vehicle parked in the walkway.

This isn’t just a Sitka problem, as this article from an Anchorage TV station shows. “Parking on the pavements” (parking on the sidewalks) also is a major problem in the United Kingdom, as these recent articles from the BBC and the Daily Scotsman demonstrate.

Don’t do it. Find another place to park. In a lot of Sitka neighborhoods the sidewalk is only on one side of the street, and it’s barely wide enough for one or two adults. We need the safe space to walk.

But it’s not just vehicles that sometimes block a walker’s path.

There are power poles in the middle of the sidewalk and shrubs from the yards of area houses creeping into the sidewalk on Sawmill Creek Road across from Baranof Elementary School and the Elks Lodge. Note the pedestrian under the speed limit sign to get a scale of how tight things are when you try to get by the poles.

You can always tell when it’s garbage day in Sitka neighborhoods because there are a few cans that wind up blocking the sidewalk. In most cases, there is a spot on the property that’s off the sidewalk and not in the street where you can put your garbage can and the big claw from the garbage truck can still reach the can to dump the trash into the truck. If there isn’t a space, please pull your cans back as far as you can so someone can still get by, especially if they’re in a wheelchair.

The placement of street furniture, such as benches, tables, business signs, etc., also needs the consideration of keeping the sidewalk clear so walkers still have safe passage. It’s summer, which means it’s tourist season in Alaska, and there are a lot of those sandwich boards that end up blocking the sidewalk instead of being at the edge so walkers and wheelchair users still can get by them.

One of the problems with sidewalks is most cities and states will take care of plowing the roads and fixing potholes, but they dump the sidewalk maintenance (trimming vegetation, shoveling snow, putting down ice melt, etc.) onto the property owners next to the sidewalk. What happens now is you get a patchwork where in front of one house or business the sidewalk is nicely plowed or cleared of vegetation, but in front of the next house/business a walker is post-holing up to the knee because the snow didn’t get cleared. This might be laziness, or it could be because there’s an absentee landlord who doesn’t know it snowed or the brush has overgrown the sidewalk. Just like roads, sidewalks are public rights-of-way and should be taken care of by the city or state, just to give them consistent maintenance.

And then there are major design flaws, which the city and state are trying to correct. These include large power poles placed in the middle of the sidewalk, as well as support poles on buildings.

The power poles in the middle of the sidewalk on Sawmill Creek Road will hopefully disappear in the next year or two when the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities renovates the sidewalks from the roundabout to Jeff Davis Street. But the project probably won’t start correcting this problem until 2019 at the earliest.

Finally, we need enforcement to keep the sidewalks clear. There is supposed to be a $20 fine for parking in the sidewalk, but that fine wasn’t mentioned in the Police Blotter item.

Sitka Sound Science Center to host guided tidepool walks this summer

Join a Sitka Sound Science Center interpreter for a morning of intertidal exploration during three guided tidepool walks in June (there also will be some in July, but the schedule hasn’t been announced). The June walks are at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 15; at 11 a.m. on Monday, June 18; and at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, June 29.

We will meet at the science center for a brief overview of the intertidal zone and what we can expect to see on the beach, as well as a beach etiquette talk. After that, we will head out to the beach adjacent to the Science Center for our beach walk.

The cost is $10, and includes all day admission to the aquarium and salmon hatchery. For more information, contact SSSC aquarium outreach manager Sandy McClung at 747-8878, Ext. 16, or

St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church to host summer Scripture Walks in the Park at Sitka National Historical Park

Rev. Julie Platson, the new priest in charge at St. Peter's By The Sea Episcopal Church, sprinkles holy water during a recent blessing service at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm. She and her church will lead a series of scripture walks this summer at Sitka National Historical Park.

Rev. Julie Platson, the rector in charge at St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, sprinkles holy water during a Spring 2015 blessing service at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. Julie and members of her church will lead a series of scripture walks this summer at Sitka National Historical Park.

St Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church invites the community to join it on Wednesday evenings for its fourth summer of Scripture Walks in the Park. The group will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, from June 6 through Aug. 15, at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor’s Center.

“It was just an idea I came up with for a  summer offering. I thought it made sense to combine a casual walk with the beauty of God’s creation here in Sitka,” said Rev. Julie Platson, the rector in charge at St. Peter’s.

Also, don’t forget to get a Park Prescriptions card at the park’s visitor center to log your walks in the park, so you can have a chance to win quarterly prizes for each completed card.

For more info, please call the church at 747-3977 or email

Sitka Sound Science Center visiting scientist to lead bird walk at Sitka National Historical Park

Ornithologist Allison Nelson, the Scientist in Residency Fellow at the Sitka Sound Science Center this summer, will lead a bird walk on the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park on Saturday, June 9.

Participants should meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Sitka Sound Science Center’s Mill Building for coffee and bagels, with the walk taking place from 8-9 a.m. at Sitka National Historical Park. Allison has been focusing her research on the hermit thrush, a migratory songbird native to Sitka. Allison will discuss birds and her research. Families and young birders are encouraged to attend.

For more information, contact Tory O’Connell at the Sitka Sound Science Center, 747-8878, Ext. 7, or This event is co-sponsored by the Sitka Sound Science Center, Sitka National Historical Park and Sitka Conservation Society.

Help us do walking/biking traffic counts and walk audits around Sitka

Hello, my name is Charles Bingham and I run the Walk Sitka website. In April, I was named to the Walking College Fellowship program coordinated by the national walking advocacy nonprofit America Walks. As part of the Walking College program, I have to work on a walking action plan for the community, and I need your help.

Over the last few years, I’ve written Sitka’s two Walk Friendly Communities program applications, and we earned a Bronze designation in 2013 and repeated at the Bronze level in 2017. In the report card we were given after the application process, one of our weaknesses was in the Evaluation part of the Five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement and Evaluation), the main five question categories in the application. To improve our score in the Evaluation part of the application, we need to gather more data. If we don’t have good data to know how walking and biking traffic moves through Sitka, then we can’t make sure we have adequate infrastructure to handle the needs.

Part of my walking action plan will be focused on gathering this data by conducting walking/biking traffic counts at different intersections at various times of the day, and doing some walk audits/walk assessments where people walk some of our streets and note problems such as broken sidewalks, power poles blocking sidewalks, poor lighting, accessibility issues for someone in a wheelchair, etc. This is where I need your help.

As I mentioned in my Morning Interview on Tuesday, May 29, on KCAW-Raven Radio, I need volunteers to help me do walking/biking traffic counts at various intersections and to do walk audits along some of our streets. These will only take an hour or two of your time, and you can pick the time, day, and intersection to count or street to audit. We need a good mix of times and conditions for the traffic counts (mornings, nights, cruise ship days, non-cruise ship days, etc.), and it’s good to get a variety of streets audited.

If you want to help, you can print out the forms posted below and go out and record your findings. Or you can give me a call at 907-623-7660 or email me at Your help is greatly appreciated. All data collected will be shared with the Sitka Planning Department to help plan future walking and biking upgrades in Sitka.

• Three-Page Walking/Biking Traffic Count Form

• Walkability and Walking Tour Assessment of Land Use (City of Sitka document for Katlian Street, but can be modified for other streets)

• AARP Walk Audit Tool Kit

• AARP Walk Audit Leader Guide

Sitka Trail Works announces Thimbleberry Lake Trail maintenance project for National Trails Day

Help Sitka Trail Works celebrate National Trails Day by participating in its annual trail maintenance event.

Meet from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, at the Thimbleberry Lake Trail trailhead entrance. This year’s trail maintenance event will feature Sitka Trail Works board members and others making repairs to the Thimbleberry Trail. Don’t forget to bring your water bottle, and favorite gloves, pruners, trash grabbers and loppers. Tools and snacks will be provided.

More information is available at or by calling 747-7244. Any preteens/teens who are younger than 18 and want to help need to be there with an adult and have a liability wavier signed by their legal guardian.