Sitka Trail Works releases weekend guided hike schedule for the 2017 summer

Sitka Trail Works will kick off its 2017 summer series of weekend hikes on Saturday, May 13, with a easy to moderate three-mile hike on the Starrigavan Loop. Meet at the Old Sitka Boat Launch Parking Lot at 9 a.m. That will be followed on Saturday, May 20, by a lesson on geocaching taught by volunteers. After a short tutorial at 8:30 a.m. at the Sitka High School entrance to the Cross Trail, participants will go discover some local geocaches (bring a smartphone or GPS device, if you have one).

The series of weekend hikes are led by various members of Sitka Trail Works, and there also are occasional bike rides and kayak trips on the schedule. Most of the hikes near town are free (donations are accepted), but some of the hikes require a boat trip and those have fees. The schedule runs through the end of August.

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In other news, Sitka Trail Works recently received funding for Phase 6 of the Cross Trail, and construction is expected to start in FY 2019, after the next reauthorization of the federal transportation bill in 2018. Sitka Trail Works also received funding for Phase II of the Mosquito Cove Trail Repairs Project, which repairs trail damage done by August 2015 and January 2017 storms.

On National Trails Day (Saturday, June 3), Sitka Trail Works and other groups will do repair work to trails TBA. Tools will be available, but you should bring gloves, pruners and toppers, if you have them.

Don’t forget to check the Sitka Trail Works website for current trail condition reports.

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Fundraiser on Saturday, June 18, will raise money for lighted crosswalk signs

HPR fundraiser flyer

There’s good news and bad news about the intersection of Halibut Point Road and Peterson Street. After hearing public comments about the dangers of the intersection, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has approved — but not funded — a plan for the City and Borough of Sitka to install lighted crosswalk lights at the intersection.

To raise funds for the new safety lights, there will be a car wash and hot dog fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at the Sitka Fire Hall (209 Lake Street).

Residents also can contribute to this special public safety fund by mailing or delivering  a check made out to the Sitka Volunteer Fire Department (in care of Dave Miller), 209 Lake Street, Sitka, Alaska 99835.

Project sponsors include, the Sitka Police Department, the Police & Fire commission, Sitka Volunteer Fire Department, Sitka Rotary Club, Girl Scout Troop 4140, the State of Alaska Department of Transportation, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, and Sitka Community Hospital.

For more information, contact Retha Winger at 738-2073.

Sitka Trail Works releases weekend guided hike schedule for the 2016 summer

SitkaTrailWorksLogoSitka Trail Works will kick off its 2016 summer series of weekend hikes on Saturday, May 7, with a lesson on geocaching taught by volunteers. After a short tutorial at 8:30 a.m. at the Sitka High School entrance to the Cross Trail, participants will go discover some local geocaches (bring a smartphone or GPS device, if you have one).

The series of weekend hikes are led by various members of Sitka Trail Works, and there also are occasional bike rides and kayak trips on the schedule. Most of the hikes near town are free (donations are accepted), but some of the hikes require a boat trip and those have fees. The schedule runs through the end of August.

Sitka Trail Works recently announced the repair Heart Lake Stream trail-crossing on the Thimbleberry and Heart Lakes Trail, with a crew led by Troy Bayne. They also fixed part of the Cross Trail. These trails were repaired using state disaster funds following the Aug. 18, 2015, landslide.

On National Trails Day (Saturday, June 4), Sitka Trail Works and other groups will work on repair work to Cross Trail from the water tower to Cascade. This project starts at 9 a.m. on June 4, and people should meet at the Kimsham Trailhead. Tools will be available, but you should bring gloves, pruners and toppers, if you have them.

Don’t forget to check the Sitka Trail Works website for current trail condition reports.

Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140 launches safety survey over Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection

HPRPetersonIntersectionLookingSouth

HPRPetersonIntersectionLookingNorthThe Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140 recently launched an intersection safety survey for the Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection near McDonald’s.

This particular intersection is on one of Sitka’s busiest roads (Halibut Point Road, aka HPR), and Peterson Street is on a hill that leads to three different schools (Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Sitka High School, and The SEER School). In January 2015, it also was the site of a pickup truck-bicycle collision that resulted in then-15-year-old Cody Bergman being medevacked to Seattle with serious injuries.

In March 2015, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) posted safety flags for the intersection (and another intersection in front of Blatchley Middle School), but many residents in Sitka want to see more, such as a stop light, lower speed limits, or better pedestrian-crossing markers.

“We are hoping to get some feedback from Sitkans so we can give DOT a push to review the safety of that intersection,” the troop wrote in an email (which didn’t identify the writer). “Obviously budgets are tight, but safety should be a priority.”

The safety survey asks people if they have any stories or experiences they want to contribute. Comments can be left in boxes at the Highliner Coffee Shop or Backdoor Cafe, emailed to hpr.troop4140@gmail.com, or submitted on the troop’s website. The comments will be compiled and forwarded to the Alaska DOT for review.

 

 

Sitka Trail Works releases weekend guided hike schedule for the 2015 summer

CrossTrail

SitkaTrailWorksLogoSitka Trail Works will kick off its 2015 summer series of weekend hikes on Saturday, May 9, with a a lesson on geocaching taught by new board members Gio Villanueva and Jeff Cranson. After a short tutorial at 8:30 a.m. at the Sitka High School entrance to the Cross Trail, participants will go discover some local geocaches (bring a smartphone or GPS device, if you have one).

The series of weekend hikes are led by various members of Sitka Trail Works, and there also are occasional bike rides and kayak trips on the schedule. Most of the hikes near town are free, but some of the hikes require a boat trip and those have fees. The schedule runs through the end of August.

The City and Borough of Sitka and Sitka Trail Works recently announced the completion of one section of reconstruction of the Sitka Cross Trail, and a new section now is under reconstruction. The Cross Trail will be open during the work, which is expected to be finished by November 2015, but hikers should use caution in that area. In addition, Sitka Trail Works recently received a grant to help repair extensive trail damage caused last fall by a Sept. 18 landslide on the Herring Cove Trail.

On National Trails Day (Saturday, June 6), Sitka Trail Works and other groups will work on several Sitka state parks, which had their support zeroed out in this year’s state budget. Volunteers are needed for this work party at the Mosquito Cove Trail on National Trails Day. People also are encouraged to write letters to Gov. Bill Walker about the funding cut, which should be dropped off at the Alaska Department of Parks office on Halibut Point Road near the Halibut Point Recreation Area.

Don’t forget to check the Sitka Trail Works website for current trail condition reports.

City and Borough of Sitka and Sitka Trail Works upgrade section of Cross Trail, start on a new section

Cross Phases 4&5 4-15

trail complete4-15The City and Borough of Sitka, in cooperation with Sitka Trail Works, has been working on improvements to and reconstruction of the Sitka Cross Trail since last spring.

Using grants the city received from the Alaska Department of Transportation and the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP), a Rasmuson Foundation grant and Sitka Trail Works donations, 1.25 miles of new trail is now complete. The old Cross Trail has been upgraded to an eight-foot-wide multimodal pathway standard, from Sitka High School to Yaw Drive and a separated path was constructed along Yaw Drive to the Indian River Trailhead parking lot. If walkers park in the Indian River/Cross Trail Trailhead parking lot off Indian River Road, the separated path now starts across the road at Peter Simpson Drive and runs along Yaw Drive to the main Cross Trail.

Sitka Trail Works has begun construction of Phase 5 of the Cross Trail Multimodal Pathway. Approximately one mile of multimodal trail will be constructed to replace the lower portion of Gavan Hill Trail. The new section of the Cross Trail will share a trailhead with the Gavan Hill Trail at the end of Baranof Street. The Phase 5 pathway will provide access to the Cross Trail and Gavan Hill Trail from downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. The lower part of Gavan Hill Trail will be abandoned.

During construction heavy equipment will be using neighborhood streets. Trail construction materials will be staged at the end of Pherson Street and adjacent to the city cemetery. Residents are asked to “excuse our mess,” truck traffic and noise during construction, and avoid the staging areas. Construction will be complete in the fall.

For further information, please contact Lynne Brandon of the Sitka Department of Parks and Recreation at 747-1852, or Deborah Lyons of Sitka Trail Works at 747-7244.

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

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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.