Sitka National Historical Park switches to summer hours on Tuesday, May 8

Beginning Tuesday, May 8, Sitka National Historical Park will transition to its summer hours of operation. This year the Visitor Center and the Russian Bishop’s House will have the same hours of operation which will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ranger-led interpretive programs will be held daily at the Visitor Center, with topics focusing on the stories and legends of the totem poles, the Battle of 1804, sea otter ecology and other aspects of the park’s natural and cultural history. The park’s 12-minute film will be played on request. Master artisans will be demonstrating in the art studios on days when cruise ships are in town.

The Russian Bishop’s House Ranger-led programs of the upstairs residence will be offered every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour, with the first program beginning at 8:30 a.m. and the last tour beginning at 4:00 p.m. The first floor hosts a self-guided museum and video that are available anytime during open hours.

Park trails are now open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Cyclists are reminded that bicycles must be walked on park trails. A bicycle rack is provided at the visitor center for those wishing to explore the rest of the park on foot. Visitors are also welcome to walk dogs on park trails, but must keep their pets on a leash at all times and dispose of pet waste properly. Park staff appreciate your cooperation with these important park policies.

For additional information, visit the park’s webpage at http://www.nps.gov/sitk or call the Visitor Center at (907) 747-0110.

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About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more about Sitka National Historical Park at www.nps.gov/sitk or visit the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark.

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Federal government shutdown impacts Sitka National Historical Park

With the federal government shutdown starting late Friday night (Jan. 19) in Alaska, there will be some changes at Sitka National Historical Park until the government reopens, whenever that happens.

For now, the trails remain open. But the visitor’s center, public bathrooms, trash collection and other amenities are all closed (and this includes at the Russian Bishop’s House). There will be a law enforcement officer patrolling the trails and making sure there is no vandalism to the property, and a maintenance person will be on call to prevent damage to the climate-controlled historic exhibits. More federal shutdown info is available from the park’s website.

Sitka Museum Walk helps kick off Sesquicentennial Celebration

Sitka is kicking off its sesquicentennial celebration this week, and one of the events is the Sitka Museum Walk from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 31.

This event will take people to a variety of locations in town, including Sitka National Historical Park, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Russian Bishop’s House, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, and Sitka History Museum. There will be free refreshments and free transportation available. The museum walk is sponsored by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Sitka Tribal Tours.

To learn more about the Sitka Museum Walk, listen to the morning interview from Monday, March 27, on KCAW-Raven Radio featuring Jeff Budd, Jenya Anichenko, and Caitlin Rogers. To learn more about the sesquicentennial celebration, listen to the morning interview from Friday, March 24, on KCAW-Raven Radio with Pat Alexander, Hal Spackman, and Ryan Carpenter. KCAW also aired this story on Monday, March 27.

New trail traffic counters installed at Sitka National Historical Park

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SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignHave you noticed little brown boxes on some of Sitka National Historical Park’s trailside signs?

The park recently installed four traffic counters along the park’s scenic trails. The trail counters are not cameras, they simply provide park managers with an accurate count of the number of people who recreate on the park’s trails. This information is used for annual reporting requirements, budgeting purposes, and maintenance requests.

The original counters were installed in 2014 without protection cases, but were damaged by vandals and the weather.  The counters and their batteries are now encased in brown boxes to protect them from the elements, specifically rain.

Also, a reminder to all cyclists that people are to walk their bicycles through the park trails, not ride them. This is for safety reasons, as there are many elders and children hiking on the trails who may not hear the bikes coming up behind them. In addition, the restriction on biking helps prevent erosion and other damage to the trails. And a reminder that metal detectors are prohibited in all national parks, including Sitka National Historical Park.

Since 2011, there have been no fees collected at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, which includes the cultural center where Native carving is demonstrated. The only fees are at the Russian Bishop’s House, which uses this fee schedule.

Sitka National Historical Park adds downtown Russian-American history walk to its offerings

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SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignThe Sitka National Historical Park offers a series of short hikes within the park detailing Sitka’s history and culture. Now the park is expanding its offerings with a free Russian-American history downtown walking tour starting this week.

These tours will give participants a chance to learn more about Sitka’s Russian heritage and its role as the administrative capital of Russian America. Tours will begin at the Russian Bishop’s House and end on top of Castle Hill. Stops along the way will include St. Michael’s Cathedral, Building 29 (Log Cache Gift Shop), and the Russian blockhouse.

The first downtown Russian-American history walks will be at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 17, and at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 18. The hike is about a half mile and takes about an hour. Weekly schedules for these walks will be posted around town, at the park, on the park website, and in the Daily Sitka Sentinel.

For more information, contact the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center at 747-0110.

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Procession through town helps Sitka welcome new Bishop of the Orthodox Diocese of Sitka and All Alaska

Procession down Lincoln Street

(NOTE: The following is a press release from Becky Latanich of the Sitka National Historical Park.)

On a crisp February Sunday morning, a magnificent procession of Orthodox clergy filed out from  Sitka’s historic Russian Bishop’s House adorned  in their finest vestments.  The Metropolitan of North America was dressed in sky-blue, with his bishops, priests, and attending clergy in golden robes. All exited the landmark building and walked — as had many of his ecclesiastical predecessors — through the former capital of Russian America, to St. Michael of the Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral through song-filled air. The event?  The installation of David Mahaffey, Jr., as the new Bishop of the Orthodox Diocese of Sitka and All Alaska.

Bishop David’s investiture ceremony links the rich legacy that ties Sitka National Historical Park not only to the history of Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska, but more broadly to the history of Russian America. As caretakers of the Russian Bishop’s House, the park welcomed Bishop David on Saturday, Feb. 22, with a tour of the restored Russian America-era built structure along with its splendid chapel.  The tour was followed by a tea service during which Park Superintendent Mary A.  Miller presented the incoming bishop with a commemorative plaque detailing the names all of the Orthodox bishops who had preceded him in service to the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska.  

On Sunday morning, Feb. 23, Bishop David and his fellow prelates dressed for the procession to the cathedral in the upstairs restored residence of the Russian Bishop’s House. By doing so, they paid homage to many notable men who called the Russian Bishop’s House home over the past 171 years, including Bishop Innocent, who was canonized St. Innocent by the Orthodox Church in 1977. Bishop Innocent’s presence and influence in the colonization of Russian America is a fundamental interpretive theme at Sitka NHP.

Sitka National Historical Park enjoys a unique relationship with the Orthodox Church and the community of Sitka. Sitka NHP is the only National Park chartered to tell the story of Russian America and the long-lasting local and national impacts of those colonization efforts.  The park preserves this lesser-known portion of American history by maintaining the Russian Bishop’s House as a museum and restored residence.  The park also preserves the history of Russian America and its official religion by caring for nearly 400 objects in the museum collection — liturgical items that are curated on behalf of the Orthodox Church in America.  While the Church owns the gilded icons, censers and other ecclesiastical pieces that decorate the bishop’s private Chapel of the Annunciation, under an agreement, the park  provides full curatorial care for all of the holy items in the Russian Bishop’s House.

Park Superintendent Miller notes that the “Ongoing use of the house for ecclesiastical purposes is exciting and emphasizes the importance of the NPS/Orthodox Church in America relationship.  It is this ‘living history’ that energizes our ongoing interpretation efforts and brings to life the Russian American period. Special events such as the investment of a bishop only serve to underscore this park’s ongoing mission to preserve the Russian Bishop’s House and its associated significant Russian Orthodox collection for the enjoyment of the American people.”

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: https://www.facebook.com/#!/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark

Shutdown over, Sitka National Historical Park to host Alaska Day activities

RussianBishopsHouseNow that the federal government shutdown is over, the Sitka National Historical Park has announced several Alaska Day events scheduled for Friday, Oct. 18, at the Russian Bishop’s House on Lincoln Street.

Here is the press release:

National Park Celebrates Alaska Day

SITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (Oct. 17, 2013) — On Friday, Oct. 18, the Sitka National Historical Park will celebrate the 146th anniversary of the transfer of Alaska from imperial Russia to the United States. To celebrate Alaska Day and Sitka’s rich history, join park rangers at the Russian Bishop’s House for special free Alaska Day festivities.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

  • Russian Bishop’s House Open House, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Tea Service and Russian Games, 10 a.m. to noon.
  • Restored Residence Tours and Children’s Games, 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.