Sitka’s renewal application for a 2017 Walk Friendly Communities designation has been submitted

Walk Sitka has submitted its renewal application for a 2017 Walk Friendly Communities award designation. The application period closed on Thursday, June 15, and results will be announced in a few months. In 2013, Sitka earned a Bronze Level WFC designation, and we’re hoping to move up to Silver or Gold this year.

Applying for a Walk Friendly Communities designation was one of three community wellness projects chosen at the 2012 Sitka Health Summit. By going through this national award application process we hoped to gain a better handle on the status of walking in Sitka and what we can do to improve it. We feel there have been many improvements to walking in Sitka just in the past year, with the launch of many walking programs (Park Prescriptions, Sitka Trail Works weekend hikes, Senior Hiking Club, etc.), the construction on the Sitka Sea Walk and upcoming expansions, continued construction on the Cross Trail and other Sitka Trail Works projects, and more.

The 72-page community assessment tool, which helps communities fill out the application, has nine sections — Community Profile, Status of Walking, Planning, Education and Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation and Additional Questions. Once submitted, the actual application printed out at 40 pages.

A copy of our 2013 and 2017 applications are posted below, along with our 2013 report card from the WFC program. Feel free to review it and let us know ways we can make Sitka more walk friendly. So far, Sitka is the only community in Alaska to earn a Bronze Level or higher Walk Friendly Communities designation (Juneau received an honorable mention in 2010). Don’t forget to like our Facebook page and watch this site for updates.

• 2017 Walk Friendly Communities application for Sitka, Alaska

• 2013 Walk Friendly Communities application for Sitka, Alaska

• Sitka, Alaska, 2013 Walk Friendly Communities Report Card and Feedback

New downtown wayfinding signs coming to Sitka in late summer or early fall

Visitors to Sitka will find it easier to get around downtown when new wayfinding signs are posted in late summer or early fall.

This project is part of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and Visit Sitka‘s new branding campaign, which will give the wayfinding signs a uniform look that matches other promotional items used by the groups (such as the visitor’s guide, ads and website).

“The Sitka Wayfinding plan is a comprehensive and unified directional sign system customized specifically for the Sitka community,” said Rachel Roy, executive director of Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and Visit Sitka. “The plan will help visitors and residents access the walkable downtown and nearby attractions by providing walking times and directions between locations as well as reflecting our community’s character and history.”

The current wayfinding signs were temporary signs posted in the summer of 2013 that were a bit cluttered and confusing. They also didn’t include estimated walking times, which can encourage people to walk to destinations. The new signs are using walking times over distances, since most foreign visitors aren’t familiar with miles/yards and most Americans are unfamiliar with kilometers/meters. The branding and wayfinding project started in 2014, but was delayed in 2015 when the then-Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau (now Visit Sitka) was combined with the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce.

In the Sitka Brand Blueprint released in 2016 by Great Destination Strategies LLC, this is why wayfinding signage is important in the visitor industry. “Pedestrian Signage and Wayfinding: Signage systems serve vital roles. They inform, guide, and motivate travelers. They are also important in shaping the identity of a place through their style, design, colors, lettering, content and placement. Good signage can contribute significantly toward the satisfaction of visitors. The current wayfinding program will contribute significantly to the presentation of Sitka. Signs play an important role in encouraging people to spend money by effectively guiding them to desired locations.”

More information about the branding campaign can be found in the documents below.

• Sitka Brand Guideline 2016.09

• Sitka Brand Blueprint Manual 2016.09

• Sitka Wayfinding Project Dec. 13.2016 Assembly Presentation

• Sitka Wayfinding for Assembly Presentation

Sitka Cancer Survivors Society to host celebration walk at Path of Hope park

A sculpture by Stephen Lawrie on the Path of Hope trail in Sitka.

The Sitka Cancer Survivors Society is planning a celebration event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, in honor of June being Cancer Survivor Month.

The society invites all those interested in joining them in walking through the “Path of Hope” park, celebrating with cancer survivors their families and friends.

Come meet the board members find out what we are all about, how we got started, and what we do to help support all those dealing with cancer. Refreshments will be served by the Sitka Emblem Club #142. Come and enjoy the beautiful park, and celebrate with fellow cancer survivors and their families.

The Path of Hope Inspirational Park is located on Moller Drive, behind Sitka Community Hospital and behind the running track at Moller Field.

The Sitka Cancer Survivors Society provides support for Sitka residents undergoing cancer treatment, and survivors of cancer. Any questions, please contact Carolyn Fredrickson at 623-7028.

• 2013 SCSS Path of Hope Brochure

KCAW-Raven Radio to host Only Fools Run At Midnight on Saturday, June 24

Mark your calendars! Sitka’s wildest running event, the 14th annual Only Fools Run at Midnight, is coming up at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 24, with a brand new course. The race starts and finishes at Harrigan Centennial Hall and follows the Sitka Sea Walk (so no roads to cross, making it safer at night). KCAW-Raven Radio is delighted to bring you this costume-clad evening full of family fun and prizes.

Registration info and race details are available at kcaw.org, and the entry fee is $20 ($25 the night of the race). Prizes will be awarded for fastest finishers, best costumes, and wackiest centipede (five or more people attached in some form or fashion). Creativity is encouraged.

There are t-shirts for the first 200 to register, and lots of entertainment and fun to keep folks wide awake for the midnight run. Funky pre-race entertainment will be provided by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp staff.

For questions and more information, visit www.kcaw.org or contact Ken or Rachel Fate at 747-5877 or send email to foolsrun@kcaw.org.

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Sitka National Historical Park hosts a variety of educational ranger-led walks each day during the summer

The Sitka National Historical Park offers a variety of daily guided walking tours that teach Sitka residents and visitors about the park’s natural and cultural resources. The guided walks program launches in May and runs through October. Some days may only have one or two walks scheduled, instead of all of them, so check the park’s website for each week’s schedule.

SNHPsign81109-008-small-500x375The Battle Walk returns to the battleground and former fort site of the Tlingít-Russian Battle of 1804, which was pivotal in determining the history of the Alaska region. Offered most days, this guided walk is approximately three-quarters of a mile, and lasts about 45 minutes to one hour.

The Totem Walk tells the stories and legends of the totem poles on the Totem Loop Trail, focusing on the common totem figures, the origins of the 1903 John Brady collection, carving methods, and the native culture of Southeast Alaska. Offered most days, this guided walk is approximately one mile, and lasts about 45 minutes to one hour.

The Sea Otter Discovery Talk teaches visitors about the ecological, cultural, and historical importance of sea otters and how they are uniquely adapted to their ocean environment. The talk lasts about 15 minutes.

The Russian-American History Downtown Walking Tour visits sites related to Sitka’s Russian American Heritage, including the Russian Bishop’s House, St Michael’s Cathedral, Building 29, the Blockhouse, and Castle Hill. This guided walk is approximately half a mile, and lasts about one hour.

The schedule may vary from day to day due to which cruise ships are in town and all walks aren’t offered each day. Each week’s schedule is posted at this link. Please check the link regularly, because new walking tours may be added throughout the summer.

All ranger-led tours meet at the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center, except for the Russian-American History Downtown Walking Tour, which meets at the Russian Bishop’s House.

For more information about the ranger-guided tours at Sitka National Historical Park, call the visitor center at 747-0110. Also, don’t forget to get a Park Prescriptions card to log your walks in the park, so you can have a chance to win quarterly prizes for each completed card.

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 3, 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 and loppers. Tools and snacks will be provided.

More information is available at http://www.sitkatrailworks.org or by calling 747-7244.

Alaska DOT&PF lists two options for Sawmill Creek Road bike/ped improvements project

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.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has proposed two options for the Sawmill Creek Road resurfacing and pedestrian improvements project between the roundabout and Jeff Davis Street.

The proposal was announced at a poorly advertised open house on Monday, May 8, at Harrigan Centennial Hall (there was no mention of the meeting in the Friday, May 5, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel), when DOT staff from Juneau showed maps and diagrams detailing the two options. The DOT staff was supposed to give a report at the Tuesday, May 9, meeting of the Sitka Assembly, but the report was tabled to a later meeting when the Assembly shrank the meeting agenda to time-sensitive items only following the weekend shooting death of a city employee by another city employee.

“We’re just looking for public input, what people like and what people don’t like,” Colleen Ivaniszek, a designer and engineering assistant with DOT told the Daily Sitka Sentinel in an article in the Wednesday, May 10, edition.

“I just looked at the Assembly agenda for tomorrow (Tuesday, May 9) night and it looks like DOT is presenting two options for the design of Sawmill Creek from the Roundabout to Jeff Davis,” Sitka Trail Works Director Lynne Brandon wrote in an email shared with the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. “It looks like they want the Assembly to choose the option. I don’t think there has been any other input from the community. This isn’t enough public process. It’s a report, so I don’t think the Assembly can make a decision at the meeting, but I think they should know that more public process is necessary and the bike-friendly option is the only way to go, not the share-road.”

The last major public meeting for this project was in December 2015 at the Sealing Cove Business Park.

This section of Sawmill Creek Road has narrow sidewalks blocked by power poles (see photo above), which prevent people in wheelchairs or using rolling walk-assist carts from being able to get by. Cyclists consider it the most dangerous section of major road in Sitka because it is the only stretch of major road without a designated bike lane or multi-use path from the ferry terminal at the end of Halibut Point Road to the industrial park at the end of Sawmill Creek Road. There also is motor vehicle parking along both sides of Sawmill Creek Road, which means cyclists have to worry about getting doored until they get past Jeff Davis Street.

“I’m really hopeful for the proposed changes to SMC Road between Baranof and Jeff Davis,” William The Giant said in a Facebook post. “I’ve been bike commuting in Sitka for about eight years now, and this small chunk of road is easily one of the most dangerous stretches for a biker in town. It might seem like a lazy little street to a driver, but for a biker it’s a choice between being firmly in traffic, or riding along in the ‘door zone’ of all the parked vehicles. It’s a no-win situation either way, since a bike accident along this road is almost guaranteed to jam up some poor driver’s axle.

“I have a baby I’m now hauling around in a bike trailer almost daily, and I absolutely dread this section of road. Honestly, I’m really surprised we’ve been providing parking to a handful of residents at the cost of safety along a major road for so long. When I read we’d only give up parking along one side of the road to create two bike lanes it sounded like a dream come true to me. Especially, since the area is being improved one way or the other, it would be strange to ‘upgrade’ it to be a new version of the same terrible layout. I will be eternally thankful to those who have to walk across the street each morning to get to their cars to make our roads safer.”

Of the two options, Option One is closest to the unacceptable status quo. In fact, it widens the driving lanes from 12 feet to 13.5 feet (and wider lanes lead to higher road speeds, which lead to more serious injuries and fatalities). It keeps the current eight-foot parking lanes on both sides of the street, but it does relocate some power poles and makes some upgrades to the sidewalk and curb ramps. This option is not an improvement for the most dangerous stretch of road and sidewalk in Sitka.

Option Two is the safer option, as it shrinks the driving lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet, eliminates the parking lane on one side of the road, and creates five-foot bike lanes on both sides of the road. This is by far the better option of the two. You can learn more about both options in the link posted at the bottom of the article.

“I agree that Option Two is the best,” Sitka cyclist Dave Nuetzel wrote in an email. “This removes parking on one side and adds two bike lanes. I also commented that bump-outs for crosswalks and a flashing crosswalk at Baranof Street are needed. … Option One with ‘shared’ lanes would basically be the same as it already is.  This stretch of highway is the only area in Sitka without a bike lane or wide shoulder. … Not sure how they plan to move cyclists from the multi-purpose path to the bike lane on the other side of the road. Currently no crosswalk at Jeff Davis.”

Girl Scout Troop 4140, which recently worked with the state and city to get a solar-powered flashing crosswalk sign for the Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection, wants to see a similar flashing crosswalk sign on Sawmill Creek Road.

“Girl Scout Troop 4140 would like to have solar-powered crosswalk signs at SMC/Baranof Street (at the Baranof Elementary crosswalk) included in the design, but we need your help,” troop leader Retha Winger wrote in a Facebook post encouraging people to contact DOT about the crosswalk. “DOT is currently accepting comments about their design changes and they are requesting comments from Sitkans. You can review the design changes here, http://dot.alaska.gov/sereg/projects/sitka_sawmill_rd/index.shtml. Please send comments to Chris.Schelb@alaska.gov. PLEASE EMAIL CHRIS AND LET HIM KNOW THAT WE WANT A SOLAR-POWERED CROSSWALK AT THE BARANOF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CROSSWALK! All comments are important and appreciated. They need to hear our collective concern for the safety of our children. Thank you!”

Both options will make the intersection of DeGroff Street and Sawmill Creek Road a 90-degree turn, which will reduce car speeds as drivers leave Sawmill Creek Road for the residential DeGroff Street. Another change will move the bike path that crosses Jeff Davis Street a bit closer to the highway, so it’s easier for drivers to see the cyclists. Another plan is to improve the sidewalks by Monastery Street.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is taking public comment on the two options for the next 30 days. You can email comments to Chris.Schelb@alaska.gov, or send them by regular mail to Sawmill Creek Road Resurfacing and Pedestrian Improvements, c/o Alaska DOT&PF, P.O. Box 112506, Juneau, Alaska, 99511-2506.

• Sawmill Creek Road Resurfacing and Pedestrian Improvements Options