Sitka National Historical Park to host National Trails Day event Saturday, June 7

NTD_2013_copyright2_RGB-1024x1019SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignOn Saturday, June 7, people all around the country will celebrate National Trails Day, a day set aside to celebrate our trails and the great outdoors. A local celebration of National Trails Day will be hosted by Sitka National Historical Park starting at 2 p.m. at the park’s Visitor Center.

In order to make every hike a safe experience, Sitka National Historical Park invites you to an educational event focusing on safety in bear country and an orientation to the recently completed River View Trail.

The event will begin with a showing of The Ends of the Earth, an award winning documentary about the ecosystem of Katmai National Park and Preserve and the Alaska Peninsula, a landscape where bears outnumber people and the sockeye salmon run is the most prolific in the world.

The second part of the event will focus specifically on bear safety and will include a short Bear Spray Training video, a review of basic safety tips regarding hiking in bear country and hands on practice with bear spray techniques using inert canisters. This event focuses on bear spray use and will not include information or discussion about firearms and bears.

The event will conclude with a tour of the recently completed River View Trail with Chief Ranger, Carin Farley. Come see the latest addition to the trail system at Sitka National Historical Park and hear about the tools and techniques that were used by the trail crew from Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park to complete the project last fall.

Sitka National Historical Park’s
National Trails Day event schedule

  • 2 pm – The Ends of the Earth (26-minute video) in the park’s Visitor Center theater
  • 2:30 pm – Bear Spray Training video (12 minutes) in the park’s Visitor Center theater
  • 2:50 pm – Bear spray practice using an inert canister outside the park’s Visitor Center
  • 3:15 pm – Walking tour of the of the new River View Trail starting from the Visitor Center lobby

You are welcome to come for all or part of the event as we join thousands of other people across the country in celebrating the many trails that allow access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration, and physical and mental health.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more about the National Park Service at www.nps.gov. Learn more about Sitka National Historical Park at www.nps.gov/sitk or visit the park’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark.

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Sitka National Historical Park wins Alaska Community Service Award for Health for Park Prescriptions program

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card in early 2013.

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card in early 2013.

Sitka National Historical Park is pleased to announce that its Park Prescriptions program has received the Alaska Community Service Award for Health from the Alaska Public Health Association (ALPHA).

According to ALPHA, Sitka National Historical Park was chosen for its “significant contribution to the health of Alaskans” by fostering “improved personal health through outdoor physical activity” in the park. John Quinley, the assistant regional director from the National Park Service’s Alaska Regional Office, will accept the award on behalf of Sitka National Historical Park at the Alaska Health Summit on Wednesday, Jan. 29, in Anchorage.

SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignAccording to a press release from Sitka National Historical Park Chief of Interpretation and Education Becky Latanich, the park “extends its thanks to the Sitka Heath Summit for its support of the program and to all of the local healthcare providers that have participated in the initiative.  The park also thanks its partners at the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation for sponsoring the program’s participation incentives.”

The Park Prescriptions program strengthens the connection between the health care system and public lands by promoting walking the trails at Sitka National Historical Park to improve physical health, as well as emotional and mental well-being.

Local health providers write park prescriptions to their patients, who fill the park prescriptions by taking walks through the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park. Every time people take a walk, they get a punchcard stamped at the park’s visitor center, and when the punchcard is full it is entered for quarterly prize drawings.

For more information about the program, contact Ranger Carin Farley at 907-747-0127.

Sitka National Historical Park trail-building crews start work on River View Trail improvements

A National Park Service trail crew is working on the River View Trail in Sitka National Historical Park. (Rachel Waldholz, KCAW-Raven Radio)

A National Park Service trail crew is working on the River View Trail in Sitka National Historical Park. (Rachel Waldholz, KCAW-Raven Radio)

This week, the Sitka National Historical Park welcomed a trail-building work crew from Skagway that started making improvements to the park’s River View Trail. Details about the project were made public in this story that aired Thursday, Oct. 24, on KCAW-Raven Radio, and in the press release posted below.

Improvements Abound in Sitka National Historical Park

SITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK  (Oct. 23, 2013) — Great things are on the horizon at Sitka National Historical Park.  Here is a preview of the many improvements slated for this winter.

Work begins this week on the long-awaited completion the River View Trail.  The first phase of the trail project, which was completed in 2011, evolved as a response to the Sitka Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Action Plan.  This plan identified the community’s desire to see improved access through the park and the development of underutilized areas.  The second phase of this project will shift focus to the repair and rehabilitation of the old section of trail that was previously owned by Sheldon Jackson College and which terminates at the bike path on Sawmill Creek Road.  This project is funded in part by entrance and campground fees collected throughout the National Park Service units.

Over the course of the next four weeks, Sitka National Historical Park staff in conjunction with the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Skagway) trail crew will work together to improve the trail’s existing grade, remove wooden stairs and eliminate potential tripping hazards. The trail will be compacted and made sustainable for the future.  For those who are interested in being a part of this trail improvement project, the park will host a volunteer trail work day in November.  Stay tuned for more information about how you can make a lasting difference in your park!

Be prepared to also learn a little as you navigate your way through the park.  All of the park’s directional signage and outdoor interpretive signage (waysides) will be replaced over the course of the next year. The new directional signage, which will be mounted on stained cedar posts, will assist new and out-of-town visitors in finding their way around the park.  Seventeen new waysides will replace the outdated interpretive signage along the Totem Trail and in front of the Russian Bishop’s House.  The signs, which are fully accessible, will cover the Battle of 1804, the totem poles, Russian-American history and the ecology of the temperate rain forest.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at http://www.nps.gov/sitk or visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark.

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Sitka National Historical Park celebrates ‘Helping Hands for America’s Lands’ during National Public Lands Day on Sept. 28

SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSign

SITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK — On Saturday, Sept. 28, tens of thousands of volunteers, including those in Sitka, will visit their favorite parks, beaches, wildlife preserves, or forests and chip in to help improve these treasured places. They will be taking part in the 20th annual National Public Lands Day, the largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in our country. This event brings together thousands of volunteers from coast to coast to improve and restore the lands and facilities that Americans use for recreation, education, exercise and just plain enjoyment.

In Sitka, join local Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, volunteers and staff at Sitka National Historical Park as we celebrate National Public Lands Day from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the park. Once again, this annual event will be held in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy and Turning the Tides as a way to contribute to the International Coastal Cleanup Day. Together we will use our hands to clean up our park and nearby beaches while keeping an eye out for interesting or unusual coastal debris. Bring some water, a friend, and a willingness to give back to your community.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

• Park Cleanup, 1:30-3 p.m. — Meet at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center at 1:30 p.m. for some light refreshments.  We will meet with Margo O’Connell from the Sitka Sound Science Center who will give a short introduction about the importance of cleaning up beaches followed by a joint effort to clean up trash in the park. There will be prizes for all volunteers and a Golden Ticket Mystery Word Treasure Hunt for youth participants. Trash bags, safety vests, and protective gloves will be provided.

• Photo Contest Awards Ceremony, 3-3:30 p.m. — Join Ranger Jasa Woods at 3:00 p.m. in the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center for the announcement of the winners of the park’s annual photo contest. The photos will be on display in the Visitor Center lobby through the end of October.

• Park Prescriptions Prize Drawing, 3:30 p.m. — The Sitka Community Hospital Foundation will sponsor its second quarterly drawing for a $100 cash prize for qualified Park Prescriptions program participants. The last prize winner used the money to purchase new walking shoes. Information about how to sign up for this healthy initiative will also be available.

Park Prescription Program: The Path to Wealth and Fitness

Betty Jo Whitcomb takes her daily walk among the totem poles at Sitka National Historical Park. She is the first recipient of a quarterly $100 cash prize for participants of the park's Park Prescription Program. (NPS Photo by Michael Hess)

Betty Jo Whitcomb takes her daily walk among the totem poles at Sitka National Historical Park. She is the first recipient of a quarterly $100 cash prize for participants of the park’s Park Prescription Program. (NPS Photo by Michael Hess)

Longtime Sitka walker wins $100 at the first quarterly drawing of completed Park Prescription cards.

Story and Photo By MICHAEL HESS, Park Ranger, Sitka National Historical Park

SiITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK  (June 24, 2013) – While many visitors are enriched physically and mentally walking the trails at Sitka National Historical Park, one walker also became a little wealthier this month as a participant of the Park Prescription Program.

Betty Jo Whitcomb was the first recipient of the quarterly drawing of completed Park Prescription cards, earning her the $100 cash prize, and recognition at a brief ceremony at the park’s second annual National Trails Day earlier this month.

As a longtime Sitka resident, Betty Jo has walked the popular Totem Trail at the national park every day for several years, interacting with out-of-town visitors, meeting old friends, and enjoying the rich cultural history and natural beauty of the park. Even with the other 20 program participants, her odds of winning were good this quarter.

Park Prescriptions FinalShe stops by the park visitor center each day after her walk, presenting her Park Prescription punch card to one of the rangers for verification of her activity. As much as she walks, Betty Jo expects to have at least two cards completed before the next drawing in October.

“[The prize] adds a little extra incentive,” said Ann Wilkinson, president of the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation, the local organization that funded the prize and also purchased waterproof cellphone cases for Park Prescription participants, which conveniently also fits a folded prescription card.

“The more cards you fill up, the better your chances to win the money and, most importantly, the better you’ll feel,” she said.

Betty Jo found out about the program in the local newspaper, but many other walkers learn about the program from their doctors – as a real prescription for real ailments. Sharing thoughts about the Park Prescription’s fountainhead initiative, Call to Action No. 6: “Go Take a Hike, and Call Me in the Morning,” National Parks Service director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “Being outdoors has positive effects on health that don’t cost a dime” – a feeling shared by the participating local doctors.

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card.

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card.

As a preventive measure, walking reduces the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, improves mental health and provides many other health benefits. Eric Jordan, another regular Sitka walker and the first person to fill his Park Prescription logged 180 miles in his first five weeks, and later received a clean bill of health from his doctor. In other cases, cardiac patients recover with regular walks on the park’s improved trails, and mental health providers write scripts for exercise and sunshine.

The freedom for participants to achieve their health goals at their own pace, creating their own personal exercise regime is among the stated strengths of the program, along with low start-up costs.

This focus on personal responsibility was also what attracted the attention of Sitka Health Summit board members when they granted support for the program last year, said Patrick Williams, health educator at the Sitka Community Hospital and a member of the Summit.  The Summit meets every year to grant seed money to low-cost, high-gain community wellness opportunities.

This year the Summit invested another $250 that will go towards printing another batch of Park Prescription cards that will be available to local health care providers.

Though a fledgling program with ambitious goals, already people like Betty Jo Whitcomb, Eric Jordan, and the other diligent walkers, strollers, and runners are punching their Park Prescription cards for health, and maybe even a little wealth, on the trails of Sitka National Historical Park.

For more information about the Park Prescription program as a healthcare provider, participant, or volunteer, contact Carin Farley, Sitka National Historical Park chief ranger and program coordinator, at (907) 747-0110 or carin_farley@nps.gov.

• Information sheet about the Park Prescriptions program at Sitka National Historical Park

Mike Wise and Tom Jacobsen to speak about hiking the Appalachian and Pacific Coast trails

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Mike Wise and Tom Jacobsen will give presentations on their recent hikes of the Appalachian and Pacific Coast trails at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, at Kettleson Memorial Library.

Mike will discuss his hike over a section of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from near Atlanta, Ga., to Mt. Kathadin, Maine, a distance of about 2,180 miles. Mike and his family/friends hiked 135 miles of the trail, from Pennsylvania to mid-Virginia, which took him about 11 days. Hiking the Appalachian Trail was the focus of Bill Bryson’s popular book, “A Walk In The Woods” (second book listed). A few of Mike’s photos make up the slideshow at the top of this post.

“I over-nighted in different 3-sided shelters each night, carried all my food and supplies, and filtered water from local springs I found along the trail,” Mike said. “The AT (Appalachian Trail) is 2,180 miles long, traverses 14 states, and is marked with approximately 80,000 trail blazes.  About 2,000 hikers start out at the southern end of the trail near Atlanta with hopes of finishing at Mt. Kathadin in Maine.  About 200 a year actually complete the hike. ”

Tom will discuss his hike of the John Muir Trail, which is a section of the Pacific Coast Trail that runs from Canada to Mexico. The John Muir Trail runs from through the Sierra Nevadas for about 215 miles from Yosemite National Park to Mt. Whitney, Calif. This was the third time Tom has hiked the John Muir Trail, and he was joined over part of the trail by his two daughters and their boyfriends.

Mike and Tom will each have slideshows from their trips, but Tom said the presentations are about more than recounting their epic adventures.

“I’ll discuss logistics and how to prepare for a hike like this,” Tom said. “I’ll talk about planning, permits, how to get your pack weight down below 20 pounds, what kind of food to take. My hope is to be a mentor for others who want to take this hike. … And I also want to remind people about the trails we have here in Sitka, right in our backyard. These are world-class trails that people pay a lot of money to come hike.”

Kettleson Memorial Library has been hosting several recent talks about hiking in Sitka and elsewhere recently. On Sunday, Feb. 24, Jeff Budd and Laura Kaltenstein talked about hiking El Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St. James, pilgrimage trail in northwestern Spain. At 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, Carin Farley with the Sitka National Historical Park and Deborah Lyons with Sitka Trail Works will talk about The Trails of Sitka, and there will be a gear exchange just before the talk from 3-4:30 p.m.

Carin Farley and Deborah Lyons to discuss ‘The Trails of Sitka’ in Sitka Conservation Society’s Backwoods and Waters lecture series

TrailsofSitka_talkCarin Farley from the Sitka National Historical Park and Deborah Lyons of Sitka Trail Works will discuss “The Trails of Sitka” on Sunday, March 10, as part of the Sitka Conservation Society‘s Backwoods and Waters lecture series. The talk takes place at 5 p.m. on March 10, at Kettleson Memorial Library, with a gear exchange from 3-4:30 p.m. just before the talk.

Carin and Deborah will provide an update on Sitka’s trail system, including information about what various agencies, non-profit groups and volunteers are doing to create a world-class trail system in Sitka. This is a good time to learn how you can become involved, so you can help Sitka as it works to complete the Sitka Trail Plan of 2003 (note, opens as PDF file). Carin also will discuss the new Park Prescriptions program, where local health providers write prescriptions for their patients to take hikes at Sitka National Historical Park.

“Carin and I will just be trying to get people excited about hiking the trails and walking in the park,” Deborah said. “It’s just a feel-good thing. I’ll be sharing about how we are working to complete our Trail Plan with projects at the (Fort Rousseau) Causeway (State Historic Site) and the Sawmill Creek Phase III upgrade scheduled for this year.”

In addition to the talk, there also will be a gear exchange so Sitka residents can swap, sell, barter and trade unused or outgrown outdoor gear. There will be tables set up for people to use in the exchange.

For more information, contact Ray Friedlander at the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or ray@sitkawild.org.