SEARHC to host Fit Happens Step Challenge for Southeast Alaska walkers in August

Are you a Southeast Alaska walker who tries to get your 10,000 steps in every day? Are you interested in a challenge that might help you reach that goal?

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) health promotion program is hosting the Fit Happens Step Challenge during the month of August, and walkers can shoot for 100,000 or 200,000 steps during the month. If you meet your weekly goals, you might even win prizes.

How do you participate? Go to to register and download your step trackers. Then email your weekly step counts over the weekend to your local site leader, so you’re entered before each week’s drawing at noon on Monday (drawings start Monday, Aug. 12). There are weekly prizes for each division (100,000 steps and 200,000 steps), and a grand prize drawing at the end of the challenge.

“This is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself and build a new healthy habit,” Sitka health educator Heleena Van Veen said.

If you want to do more than walk, the step tracker sheets include step conversions for other healthy activities, such as gardening or cycling.

For more information, contact these local site leaders:

  • Haines – Pam Sloper | 907.766.6367 | pams@searhcorg
  • Juneau – Hannah Schlosstein | 907.364.4404 |
  • Kake – Monique Ybarra | 907.785.6514|
  • Klukwan – Joanne Spudd | 907.766.6319 |
  • Prince of Wales – Kelsey Evans | 907.755.4995 |
  • Sitka – Heleena van Veen | 907.966.8914 |
  • Wrangell – Hannah Schlosstein | 907.364.4404 |

SAIL turns Only Fools Run At Midnight fun run over to CoastAlaska and KCAW in Sitka


Only Fools Run at Midnight SitkaSoutheast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL), the organization behind the much-loved costumed fun run fundraiser, Only Fools Run at Midnight, is passing the reins to CoastAlaska Inc. public media.

SAIL has organized the race to run simultaneously in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka for more than a decade. This year SAIL will help organize the 12th annual Only Fools Run At Midnight races with KTOO in Juneau, KCAW-Raven Radio in Sitka and KRBD in Ketchikan. Proceeds will be shared between the organizations during this transition year.

“It was a challenging decision for us. The race is so much fun and we love putting it on. Ultimately though, we decided that we wanted to focus our efforts and staff time on our mission: Inspiring personal independence for seniors and people with disabilities living in Southeast Alaska. We are excited to pass the torch to (CoastAlaska) public media and help with the transition this year,” said Joan O’Keefe, SAIL Executive Director.

SAIL is a Center for Independent Living and an Aging and Disability Resource Center serving people with disabilities of all ages and seniors throughout Southeast Alaska. SAIL has offices in Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka and Haines.

“We think this is a perfect fit for the public radio stations. The race will allow us to connect with our listeners and supporters through a fun and creative community event. We are thankful to the SAIL Board for choosing us and are looking forward to organizing the event,” said Mollie Kabler, Executive Director of CoastAlaska Inc.

“Raven Radio is happy to help sustain this healthy, creative community tradition!” said Ken Fate, Station Manager at KCAW-Raven Radio.

CoastAlaska supports and provides resources for public broadcasting organizations throughout the state. In Southeast, KCAW-Raven Radio, KTOO and KRBD are all members of the CoastAlaska family of stations.

The race will be held at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, in Juneau and Ketchikan, and at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 20, in Sitka. The Sitka race will start and finish at the Sitka Fire Hall, and there will be a five-kilometer (3.1-mile) fun run or one-mile walking course.

Registration materials are available at Old Harbor Books, First Bank, the SAIL office (514 Lake Street), and the KCAW-Raven Radio office in the Cable House. You also can pre-register online at the KCAW website, or by clicking this link (online pre-registration is the preferred method). Pre-registration ends on June 18, and day-of-race registration starts at 10:30 p.m. at the Sitka Fire Hall. The registration fee is $20 per person, and the first 100 to register receive a t-shirt. In addition to prizes for the fastest finishers, there will be prizes for the best costumes (including centipede costumes connecting five or more runners/walkers). Costume judging runs from 11-11:45 p.m.

For more information about the Sitka event, call the KCAW-Raven Radio main number at 747-5877 or email If you are interested in donating to support the event, please contact Justin Shoman at CoastAlaska in Juneau at 1-907-463-6422 or

If you would like more information about SAIL and the ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program, please contact Tristan Knutson-Lombardo in Juneau at 907-586-4920 or email at, or contact Dave Nuetzel or Bridget Kratz in the Sitka office at 747-6859.

• Sitka Only Fools Run At Midnight Registration Form 2015

Alaska DOT puts pedestrian crossing flags at two Sitka intersections on Halibut Point Road

photo 2 (3)

Pedestrian crossing flags have been installed at the Halibut Point Road and North Lakeview Drive intersection, in front of Blatchley Middle School. But where’s the paint for the crosswalk or safety lights?


On March 20, the Sitka Police Department page on Facebook posted the following message and photo (below) after the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities installed pedestrian crossing flags at two intersections on heavily traveled Halibut Point Road in Sitka:

SitkaPedestrianCrossingFlagsSPD would like to say a big THANK YOU to Steve Bell, from DOT, for installing Pedestrian Crosswalk Flags at the Blatchley Middle School and McDonald’s crosswalks. In an effort to make pedestrians and the crosswalk more visible until the permanent paint can be applied to the roadway, Bell has installed holders on both sides of the roadway containing Pedestrian Crosswalk Flags. The idea is simple, when a person wishes to cross the road they grab a flag and wave it a bit to get the attention of motorists, and once traffic has stopped and it is safe to cross, do so and deposit the flag in the holder on the other side of the road. The brightly colored reflective flags benefit pedestrians by making them more visible to drivers and the simple act of holding one alerts drivers that the pedestrian has a desire and intent to cross the road. In addition, simply having the brightly colored flags at both ends of a crosswalk makes the crosswalk stand out more, making it easier to notice on the approach. Be advised that the flags are not formal traffic control devices but a way for pedestrians to make themselves more visible to approaching traffic.


One set of pedestrian crossing flags (also known as pedestrian crosswalk flags) was installed at the corner of North Lakeview Drive, just in front of Blatchley Middle School and the AC Lakeside grocery store next door. The other set of pedestrian crossing flags was installed at the corner of Peterson Street (in front of McDonald’s, which is just down the hill from three nearby schools — Sitka High School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, and the SEER School).

The basic premise of pedestrian crossing flags is simple. A set of about eight flags will be split into two holders on each side of a busy intersection. Whenever pedestrians need to cross the busy road, they grab one of the flags from its holder and wave it several times to let drivers know they plan to cross the road, and they continue to wave the flag as they cross. Once safely across the street, they replace the flag in the holder on the other side.

Even before a young cyclist was hit at the McDonald’s intersection in early February, Sitka residents had been complaining about the lack of pedestrian safety at these two intersections. After the vehicle-bicycle collision sent a high school freshman to two Seattle hospitals for a month, local DOT staff installed better signs and discussed other measures that could improve safety. That’s when the idea of pedestrian crossing flags came up. According to Alaska DOT traffic engineer David Epstein, “We have deployed them at several intersections in Juneau for that purpose, and they are performing well. We modified the flags with reflective yellow tape. It makes them much more noticeable at night.”

But do they really work? The jury is still out about the effectiveness of pedestrian crossing flags. Most of the data so far is anecdotal, and there haven’t been many formal studies.

Pedestrian crossing flags have been around for several years, and several U.S. cities have tried them, including Seattle and Kirkland, Wash.; Berkeley, Calif.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Sand Point, Idaho; and others. The pedestrian crossing flags also have been tried in Juneau, Alaska. Of course, 150 years ago, it was the cars that needed the safety flags, before they began to rule the roads.

Some communities, such as Seattle and Berkeley, have given up on the pedestrian crossing flags, for various reasons including ineffectiveness, theft of the flags, and more. “Berkeley analyzed its flag program and issued a data-driven report about a decade ago that for crossing a major arterial at an unsignalized marked crosswalk, flags did not improve driver behavior in yielding to pedestrians. For this reason, the program was abandoned,” wrote Wendy Alfsen, executive director for California Walks.

Some pedestrians don’t like them because they feel weird having to wave them (or they feel like they’re waving a white flag and surrendering). Other walking advocates don’t like them because they feel requiring flags and reflective clothing is blaming the victim instead of addressing the real problem, poorly designed roads built for cars with no accommodations for people who walk or bike.

One reason some traffic engineers like the pedestrian crossing flags is because it’s an inexpensive solution to an increasing problem, getting drivers to notice and stop for pedestrians. It’s usually seen as a supplement to other pedestrian safety features, such as freshly painted crosswalks, flashing lights above the intersection, push-button traffic lights, and other traffic calming measures such as lower speed limits. Pedestrian crossing flags also are viewed as a temporary and not a permanent solution in many cases.

“One can debate optimal solutions all day long, but the benefit of the crossing flags is that one may act without delay, and citizens can take leadership in making something happen,” wrote Mobility Education Foundation President David Levinger of Seattle, when responding a a question about the effectiveness of the flags on the America Walks Forum email listserv for walking advocates. “In Washington D.C., there was a location on Connecticut Avenue that was quite problematic. Ped flags at that location were installed, a bit to the dismay of engineers in DCDOT. After about five years, then finally installed rectangular rapid flashing beacons and removed the flags, but they were well appreciated in the interim. My true personal feeling is that we should train drivers to recognize a pedestrian’s intent to cross the street and train pedestrians to extend their hand outward from their body as an expression of intent to cross as is taught to children in other countries. Then, pedestrians would always have a ‘flag’ with them that would be an effective tool to achieve driver yielding.”

DSC_0141Most communities include signage and training when they install the pedestrian crossing flags. They put signs by the holders to let pedestrians know how to use them (see example), and they work with local media to get the word out to drivers and pedestrians about the new pedestrian crossing flags and how they work. So far, the only media in Sitka explaining the pedestrian crossing flags has been the Facebook post, which had limited reach. There have been no newspaper articles or radio PSAs about them.

Also, go back up to the top of this article and look at the photo of the intersection in front of Blatchley Middle School. Do you see any paint showing the crosswalk? What about flashing lights above the intersection? Halibut Point Road is one of Sitka’s two busiest roads and it has some of the highest speed limits, but there are no real traffic-calming measures in front of the school. When school starts and lets out, there usually is a staff member who puts on a safety vest and carries a STOP sign into the intersection to allow students to cross the street and to let school buses turn onto HPR. But the rest of the day this is an uncontrolled intersection. The McDonald’s intersection is uncontrolled all day.

Epstein said last year’s HPR construction project is one reason the Blatchley crosswalk is barely visible.

“With regard to the marginally-visible crosswalk by Blatchley Middle School: as you know, HPR was rehabilitated during the 2014 construction season. The project took much longer than anticipated. By the time the top lift of asphalt had been laid down and the obligatory two-week, pre-marking curing period had elapsed, it was too late to apply permanent pavement markings. We needed more favorable temperature and moisture conditions than were prevalent at the time. The only option left was to apply paint, which (obviously) doesn’t last long under traffic conditions. When weather permits this spring, the crosswalks will be permanently delineated with inlaid methyl methacrylate, the most durable marking material we have. It should retain its visibility for several years.”

Another issue with the pedestrian crossing flags is where do you carry them if you’re carrying a big load of groceries or pushing a stroller with kids or elder in a wheelchair? Bob Planthold, who is a board member with California Walks, noted other problems with the flags and accessibility.

“Accessibility is a major flaw in this program. How can someone who is blind know where to pick it up and deposit it? How can someone who has neuro-muscular spasticity use a flag? Are these flags so highly reflective that at night a car’s headlight would pick it up far enough away for a car to stop or slow so the pedestrian can cross?” Planthold wrote. “What about a 6-year old crossing? Even if using a flag, kids strides are shorter, making it possible a deliberate crossing could be slower than a car driver expects of an adult. What about when pushing a baby in a stroller and holding the hand of a toddler? Grow a third hand? Or hold flag in mouth?”

So if you’re driving down Halibut Point Road and see a pedestrian grab one of the pedestrian crossing flags from the holder. Slow down and stop to let the pedestrian cross. And hopefully the Alaska DOT will get better markings for the crosswalks at these two intersections to make things safer.

SEARHC suicide prevention program hosts third annual Southeast ‘Walk for Life’ event Saturday, May 11, in Sitka

revised 2013 Walk for life flier Sitka

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) suicide prevention program and “1 is 2 Many” regional suicide prevention task force will host its third annual Southeast “Walk for Life” event in Sitka at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 11. Participants will walk from the Crescent Harbor shelter to the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi to show their support for suicide prevention and awareness.

This is one of several similar walks that will take place throughout the region on Saturday, with other walks scheduled for the Southeast communities of Angoon, Coffman Cove, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Kasaan, Ketchikan, Klawock, Klukwan, Metlakatla, Thorne Bay, Wrangell and Yakutat. In addition, there will be similar walks in other parts of the state, including the Northwest Arctic Borough, North Slope Borough, Bering Straits, Fairbanks and Bethel areas.

“The SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program is happy to sponsor this event,” program manager Wilbur Brown Jr. said. “We look forward to raising awareness about suicide and our prevention efforts such as the ‘1 is 2 Many’ regional suicide task force.”

Also, the 24/7 toll-free SEARHC Help Line (1-877-294-0074) is available for use by any Southeast Alaska resident who might need help working through a crisis. The SEARHC Help Line is staffed by a team of master’s-degree-level mental health therapists who will listen and provide effective, compassionate and confidential care. The SEARHC Help Line is offered as a free resource to complement the care provided at SEARHC Behavioral Health clinics throughout the region.

For more information about the Sitka “Walk for Life” event, contact Rena Wallace at 966-8755.