Indian River pedestrian bridge to close on May 8 through mid-August for construction project

Construction to replace the Indian River pedestrian bridge in Sitka National Historical Park will begin Monday, May 8. Cross-park foot traffic will be closed through mid-August. Signs and maps will direct pedestrians around the park during construction. The detour will be through the Sitka Fine Arts Campus to Sawmill Creek Road. Detour maps are available at the park’s visitor’s center or the Russian Bishop’s House information desks.

The existing foot bridge is now 50 years old and is beginning to show signs of deterioration. It is National Park Service policy to repair or replace infrastructure prior to the occurrence of any safety issues. The new bridge will assure that park visitors can safely cross Indian River for decades to come.

Site preparation begins on Monday, May 8. The actual removal and reconstruction of bridge components will start May 15 and continue until Aug. 15.

“The in-river work will be completed by July 15th to protect the mid-summer salmon run,” said Brinnen Carter, chief of resources. “Hopefully, all the work will be completed by then, but it is likely that the contractor will have above-water work to complete between July 15th and August 15th. We know that the bridge is a critical component of the community’s walking trails and we want it back in operation as soon as possible.”

The trail linking the park’s east and west sections across the river is heavily-used. Pedestrian traffic will be re-directed with signs and maps through the Sitka Fine Arts Campus and down Sawmill Creek Road until the new, wider bridge is in place.

The new bridge, designed with considerable public input, will retain the character of the existing bridge but be wider to provide easier passage and better wildlife viewing.

For more information about this work, please contact Angie Richman at 747-0132 or Mike Trainor at 747-0150.

Sitka National Historical Park starts Indian River Pedestrian Bridge and other projects for the season

Foot traffic on the trail linking the Sitka National Historical Park’s east and west sections across the Indian River pedestrian bridge will be restricted over the summer months as crews begin work to replace the almost 50-year-old foot bridge.

Access will be limited for periods of time from Wednesday, April 12, through Friday, April 14, as crews begin the project by clearing trees and brush in the construction zone near the bridge. This tree removal is being done by Saturday, April 15, before migratory birds may nest in the trees. A visual inspection of the trees to be removed has revealed no nests. Pedestrians should use caution during this as this work will be completed using heavy equipment

On May 8, the removal of the old bridge will begin, closing the cross-park trail completely at least until Aug. 15. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued a permit to allow in-water work to take place during this time. The bridge replacement project was delayed last summer when it was discovered the bridge would need new footings.

“We hope the work will result in minimum inconvenience for our many park visitors,” said Mike Trainor, Sitka National Historical Park Chief of Maintenance. “But all structures have a lifetime. For the long-term convenience and safety of cross-park traffic, the installation of a new bridge is necessary. And of course we are also mindful of the importance of Indian River as a salmon-bearing stream, so we will do everything possible for this work to pose a minimum disruption to that natural cycle of life.”

The new bridge will be similar in design and slightly wider to accommodate a larger number of visitors viewing the salmon runs while still allowing pedestrians and people walking their bikes to safely pass.

Park crews also will be engaged over the next several months in clearing selected understory and small trees over a half-acre between the park’s fort site and the shoreline. The goal is to help restore views from the fort site to the ocean to approximate the topography that existed during the Battle of 1804, the event that gave rise to the naming of park land as a national monument in 1910.

For more information about this work, please contact Angie Richman at 747-0132 or Mike Trainor at 747-0150.

Art exhibition ‘Voices of Change’ will host artwork along Totem Loop

The art exhibition “Voices of Change” consists of several exceptional, original pieces of art that will be on display at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, and, for the first time, along the riverside of the park’s Totem Loop.

Visitors are invited to view this innovative work beginning with the Wednesday evening reception for “Voices of Change” from 6-8 p.m. on March 29 at the Visitor Center, and also to walk the trail during the park’s trail hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. through November, to experience various artists’ interpretation of the 1867 Treaty of Cession, or the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States.

The Totem Loop display is a unique opportunity to view this art in the natural environment, paying homage to the original concept of Totem Trail. Visitors are asked to enjoy but not to disturb the displays, which will be on view for eight months. Park staff have taken great care to hang the artwork along the trail in order to provide for maximum enjoyment, minimal harm to the evergreen trees, and placed away from the fort site.

Park staff will be available each day to help visitors interpret the art and discuss the care taken to ensure the display has no impact on our precious natural resources. For more information, contact Angie Richman, Chief of Interpretation, at 747-0132.

Sitka National Historical Park to host battlefield restoration meetings, including a walking meeting

Photo courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park

Photo courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park

SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignSitka National Historical Park invites the public to attend two meetings and a “Walk-and-Talk” in February to comment on park plans to restore the view to the sea from the Tlingít fort site of Shis’kí Noow. The project goal is to restore the landscape to an appearance more closely representative of what it looked like in 1804, and provide visitors a more accurate and better physical representation of the 1804 Tlingít-Russian battlefield.

The two public meetings will begin with a presentation by the park’s Chief of Resources, Brinnen Carter PhD, at 5 p.m., on Wednesdays, Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center. The “Walk-and-Talk” will be held at noon on Feb. 15, starting at the Visitor Center, and will last approximately one hour.

At all three events, Dr. Carter will present the scope of the project, answer questions, and gather public opinion. Work is scheduled to take place this summer.

For more information, please contact Angie Richman at 747-0132.

Comment period open for first-phase completion of Sitka Sea Walk into Sitka National Historical Park

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Sitka National Historical Park will keep the public comment period on the Sitka Sea Walk Phase 1 completion project open until Sept. 30. Public comments will then be compiled and analyzed. Park managers will decide on an alternative in part on advice and opinion received through public comment.

SitkaSeaWalkEndBySNHPJPGThe Sitka Sea Walk, which opened on Oct. 18, 2013, runs parallel to Lincoln Street, from the Crescent Harbor Parking lot to Sitka National Historical Park. The unfinished portion, from near Merrill Rock on Lincoln Street and Kelly Street to the Visitor Center, has three possible options for completion. Sitka National Historical Park held two public meetings to discuss the project on Aug. 23 and Aug. 30.  The alternatives can be viewed during regular Visitor Center hours at 106 Metlakatla Street in Sitka. The alternatives also are discussed in the Aug. 30 meeting link above.

In other recent news, the Alaska Transportation Alternatives Program (ATAP) announced on July 28 it was awarding $1.36 million to Sitka to build the second phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, which will run from Harrigan Centennial Hall to the lightering dock by the O’Connell Bridge.

Comments can be taken in-person at the visitor center, delivered by e-mail to nps_sitk_website_contact@nps.gov, or received by mail sent to 103 Monastery Street, Sitka AK, 99835. Comments by mail should be post marked no later than Sept. 30. For more information please call the visitor center at 907-747-0110.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 413 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 Sitka National Historical Park at http://http://www.nps.gov/sitk or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaNationalHistoricalPark.

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Sitka National Historical Park to host second meeting about completing first phase of Sitka Sea Walk

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Sitka National Historical Park will host the second of two meetings for public participation regarding the completion of the first phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, the end where the pathway enters the national park.

The meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center, where Chief of Resources Brinnen Carter, will discuss the pros and cons of three options for the project. The first meeting, which was part of an open house, was on Aug. 23.

SitkaSeaWalkEndBySNHPJPGThe first phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, which opened in October 2013, extends from the Crescent Harbor parking lot to Sitka National Historical Park, running above the harbor parallel to Lincoln Street. The unfinished portion, from near Merrill Rock on Lincoln Street (and the intersection with Kelly Street) to the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, has three possible options for completion. The public meetings will present the options, answer questions, and gather public opinion.

The first option (with a projected cost of $329,732) completely rebuilds the sidewalk, widening it to match the width of the Sitka Sea Walk as it goes into the park. The second option ($490,142), and the most popular option among those at the Aug. 23 meeting, is a boardwalk that will take the Sitka Sea Walk down by Merrill Rock and closer to the beach, away from the street, as walkers enter the park. The third option ($180,428) only replaces the concrete at the beginning and end of the walk, but leaves a narrow sidewalk next to a retaining wall for much of the section.

This section of the Sitka Sea Walk is on federal land controlled by the National Park Service, which is why the Sitka National Historical Park is holding these meetings instead of the city. Carter said the Alaska Federal Lands Access Program will cover the costs, regardless of the preferred choice. While the boardwalk (third option) will have a shorter life span than the other two concrete options (50 years vs. 75 years), it does offer several safety advantages since walkers won’t be crowding the streets near a blind corner as they do now when cruise ships are in town. Carter said the intent is to match the current design of the Sitka Sea Walk as much as possible.

For more information, please call the visitor center at 907-747-0110. Carter said Sitka residents who can’t make Tuesday’s meeting can stop by the visitor center and submit their comments by Tuesday, Sept. 6. The design will be completed this fall, with construction expected to be finished by October 2017.

Schematics showing the three options are posted as a slideshow below.

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Sitka awarded $1.36 million for second phase of Sitka Sea Walk

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The Sitka Sea Walk is about to get 1,763 feet longer.

The Alaska Transportation Alternatives Program (ATAP) recently announced it was funding $1.36 million for the second phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, which will extend the popular pathway between Harrigan Centennial Hall and the O’Connell Bridge lightering dock.

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Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell, left, and State Sen. Bert Stedman cut the ribbon opening the Sitka Sea Walk on Alaska Day (Oct. 18), 2013.

This new phase of the walkway will run along the embankment on the water side of the bridge, allowing visitors and Sitka residents to walk from the lightering dock to Harrigan Centennial Hall without having to cross a busy street. The extension also will connect to the first phase of the Sitka Sea Walk, completed in October 2013, which runs parallel to Lincoln Street from the Crescent Harbor parking lot to the border of the Sitka National Historical Park. The Sitka National Historical Park currently is hosting community meetings about various plans to complete the first phase of the Sitka Sea Walk from the border of the park down to the park’s visitor center.

The total cost of Phase II of the Sitka Sea Walk is $1.7 million, with $200,000 coming from the Alaska Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) and $140,000 coming from the Commercial Passenger Excise Tax (CPET). In 2014, the city applied and was approved to receive $181.940 in FLAP funds (with a local match of $18,060), which become available in the Fall of 2017. The FLAP and CPET funds can be used to meet the $340,000 match requirement to receive the $1.36 million from ATAP.

On June 28, the Sitka Assembly approved the submission of the grant application for ATAP funds, and the state announced on July 28 that the Sitka Sea Walk extension was one of 15 projects funded around the state. While not in the application, the city also plans a connector path from the O’Connell Bridge lightering dock to Lincoln Street and Totem Square.

“I think it will be a great addition to the visitor industry, visitors can get off at (Harrigan) Centennial Hall and get to this part of town,” Sitka City Administrator Mark Gorman told the Daily Sitka Sentinel. “I think it will facilitate more walkability to all of Sitka. It will enhance the visitor experience.”

In the Sitka Assembly’s resolution approving the grant application, the Sitka Sea Walk and its extension are listed as priorities in the 2002 Sitka Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, the 2007 Sitka Comprehensive Plan, the Sitka Tourism Plans 1.0 and 2.0, the Sitka Downtown Master Plan, and the 2011 Sitka Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Action Plan. In surveys of cruise ship visitors and independent travelers completed in 2010 for the Sitka Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Action Plan, there was a desire for more walking and hiking activities and tours, and most cruise ship visitors choose to walk during their visit to Sitka.

GuyWalkingOnSpurOverBreakwaterIn addition to helping celebrate Sitka’s connection to the sea, there is another big reason to build the Sitka Sea Walk extension — safety.

In a memorandum to Mayor Mim McConnell, the Sitka Assembly and Gorman about the application, Public Works Director Mark Harmon and Municipal Engineer Dan Tadic noted how the Sitka Sea Walk extension “around the seaward side of the O’Connell Bridge solves a long-standing, identified safety issue with pedestrians making uncontrolled crossings of the State of Alaska owned and maintained Harbor Drive. A comprehensive wayfinding signage system along with a designated pedestrian route will result in visitors moving in predictable ways. Not only is this a significant safety improvement, but (it) also reduces the potential for visitor-resident conflicts and frustration.”

When the first phase of the Sitka Sea Walk was built in 2013, safety also was a factor since before the Sitka Sea Walk pedestrians had to cross Lincoln Street at least twice to get to where sidewalks were only available on one side of the street. The construction of the Sitka Sea Walk not only eliminated the street crossings, it directed pedestrian traffic away from the street so there were fewer auto-pedestrian conflicts.

The ATAP funding is expected to become available in early 2017, pending an environmental review by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, according to Marcheta Moulton, small federal programs manager for the ADT&PF. Tadic said the city will probably go through the design process in Fall/Winter 2017-18, with construction starting in 2018.