City of Sitka to host public meetings to discuss improvements on Lincoln Street

The City and Borough of Sitka Public Works Department will host two public meetings — at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, at the Sitka Public Library — to discuss the Lincoln Street Improvements project. Participants will be able to review the plans and hear about the fall and spring construction schedule.

The project includes the replacement of lining of deteriorated storm drainpipes, grinding and overlay of existing pavement, upgrading of ADA (American Disability Act) ramps, replacement of limited sidewalk and installation of red concrete crosswalks. The public is encouraged to attend to see the proposed improvements and provide public input.

For more information, contact Public Works at 747-1806.

• Lincoln Street Improvements meeting handout

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Alaska Department of Fish & Game to host ‘Bear Aware’ presentation at Sitka Public Library

Brown bears are beginning to stir on the outskirts of town, so the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is reminding residents to practice diligent bear awareness.

Residents should make household garbage unavailable to bears, prior to their arrival. Pro-actively removing attractants before bears emerge from hibernation will encourage them to seek natural food sources and help alleviate problems associated with food-conditioned bears later this summer. ADF&G regulations prohibit negligently leaving out food and garbage in a manner that attracts bears. Local ordinances prohibit putting trash out until the morning of pick up.

To help prevent bear issues this summer, ADF&G suggests the following:

  • Garbage: Store trash inside buildings or in bear-proof containers; keep it secured until the morning of scheduled pick up. To minimize garbage odors, bones and meat scraps should be frozen until the day of pick up or until the items can be properly disposed. Remind neighbors to do the same.
  • Electric fences: Properly constructed electric fences are a highly effective deterrent to keep bears out of gardens, fish smokers, and away from chicken coops and domestic animals.
  • Barbecues: Clean grills after each use.
  • Pets: Feed pets indoors or clean up excess and spilled food between meals. Store pet food indoors. Never sic your dog on a bear.
  • Bird Feeders: Take feeders down April through October.
  • Gardens: Plant gardens in the open, away from cover and game trails. Compost only raw vegetable matter and turn it over frequently.

Hikers, walkers, and joggers are reminded to be alert for bears, especially during early mornings and late evenings. Be safe and bear smart by traveling in groups and keeping dogs on a leash.

ADF&G will be giving a free bear safety and awareness presentation at 6 p.m. on Thurday, April 19, at the Sitka Public Library. The community is invited to attend.

For additional information and questions, contact the Sitka ADF&G office at 747-5449.

Sitka Community Hospital, SEARHC to host Sitka Winter Clean Commute Challenge in February

Sitka Community Hospital and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), in collaboration with the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition, Walk Sitka, and Sitka Health Summit, will host the Sitka Winter Clean Commute Challenge during the month of February.

This event is a walking and/or bicycling commuting challenge where Sitkans can record and report their mileages while reducing carbon emissions, improving their health, and possibly winning prizes. This event starts on Feb. 1 and ends on Feb. 28. There will be a kick-off meeting from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the Sitka Public Library.

“Leave gas-powered vehicles behind with Sitka’s winter bike and walk challenge in February to help the planet, your health, and your wallet,” SEARHC Health Educator Holly Marban said. “Help us achieve our goal of keeping 500 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in February. Just send us the number of miles you biked or walked instead of using a gas-powered car, and we’ll calculate how many pounds of carbon dioxide you helped to keep out of the atmosphere.”

“One of the many great things about Sitka is that compact and with the right gear and safety practices people can walk or bike year around,” said Doug Osborne, Sitka Community Hospital Director of Health Promotion. “I’m excited to be part of this effort that really supports the Sitka Health Summit’s new CO2 reducers action group that formed this fall to reduce the main greenhouse gas that’s driving climate change.”

To participate, take at least one trip on foot or by bike in February, then log the miles you walked or biked in place of vehicle use. Every Friday in February, email the miles you logged that week to sitkacleancommute@gmail.com, and you will be entered to win awesome prizes, such as reflective gear, waterproof bags, and ice cleats. The first 20 people to send in miles walked or biked will receive a free reflective wrist band.

Remember to be safe and visible on your commute. Always wear reflective gear in low lighting, a helmet when biking, and ice cleats when walking in slippery conditions. Participants will be able to record their bike rides for International Winter Bike To Work Day on Friday, Feb. 9 (there also is a bike to school division), or the kids can record their walks on Winter Walk Day on Wednesday, Feb. 7  (note, this is an event from Canada, but we get similar weather so why not).

Questions can be directed to sitkacleancommute@gmail.com, hmarban@searhc.org, or dosborne@sitkahospital.org.

• Winter Clean Commute Challenge carbon equivalents for distances walked or biked

Sitka Community Hospital launches Safe and Seen in Sitka campaign with high-visibility jacket raffles

Getting around Sitka on foot or bike is good for the environment and your health. It is important to make sure it’s done safely, especially while traveling at night.

Walkers — people who travel by foot, wheelchair or stroller — and bicyclists are among the most vulnerable users of our roads. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the next 24 hours, on average, 445 people in the U.S. will be treated in an emergency department for traffic-related pedestrian injuries.

Sitka can be dark, especially in the winter months, and many of the bicyclist and walker fatalities happen in low visibility. Drivers can only stop or swerve for the people they see. Lights, reflectors and high-visibility coats offer a level of protection.

Thanks to Grundens and Murray Pacific, Sitka Community Hospital will be raffling off high-visibility rain coats at various locations throughout Sitka. These raffles will take place at Sitka Public Library, Hames Center, Salvation Army Little Store, Tongass Threads, Sitka Tribe of Alaska Social Services, Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop, Swan Lake Senior Center, Sitka Public Health Center, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School and Sitka Community Hospital’s Oceanside Therapy Center.  The drawings will start as early as Oct. 30 and are open to all.

Having a coat that covers you and can be seen from all sides is a great way to stay safe and seen. For more information on the Safe and Seen in Sitka campaign, contact Sitka Community Hospital’s Director of Health Promotion Doug Osborne at 747-0373.

Sitka Community Hospital launches Active August Fitness Challenge geared toward walking and biking

Commuting by bicycle or on foot is an economical and environmentally responsible way to simultaneously meet your needs for transportation, physical activity and fun all in one! In the month of August, Sitka Community Hospital will hold a summer fitness challenge encouraging Sitka residents to leave the car behind and instead enjoy a walk or bike ride as they do their regular errands and commutes.

Sitka residents can start logging trips at any point to be eligible for weekly drawing by completing one or more non-motorized transportation trips a week. On Tuesdays, starting on Aug. 8, one local resident will be selected to win a $100 gift certificate to a local business, the second-place winner will get a free class at the Hames Center. Cyclists or walkers who participate in all four weeks of the challenge will be entered into the grand prize drawing.

“Sitka really is a great place to experience on foot or bike and because we are compact, have courteous drivers, and a mild climate it’s possible to combine exercise with basic commuting. Every day lots of people in Sitka are doing just that,” Sitka Community Hospital Director of Health Promotion Doug Osborne said.

Participants can enter online at http://bit.ly/walkbikesitka  or drop off a hard copy at the Hames Center, Sitka Public Library, Sitka Public Health Center or Oceanside Therapy Center.

For more information, visit sitkahospital.org or call 747-0373.

• Sitka Community Hospital Active August Challenge Brochure 2017

Five Sitkans to give presentation about their Via Francigena treks on Jan. 26 at the Sitka Public Library

via-francigena

img_8746Last year, five Sitka residents hiked part of the 2,000-kilometer Via Francigena historic pilgrimage trail from Canterbury, England, to Rome. The five — Bridget Kauffman, Ted Laufenberg, Connie Kreiss, Karen Hegyi and Julien Naylor — will give a free presentation and slideshow on their hikes at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Sitka Public Library.

“There is so much variety along such a long walk,” Kreiss said. “The 30-kilometer stretch in England to the ferry in Dover is pastoral and a lovely introduction to England’s famous walking paths. Northeast France has canal systems to walk along, the numerous World War I cemeteries and battle sites, the vineyards of Champagne, miles of flat farmland — corn and grain production — and then the foothills and Dura Mountains into Switzerland. All along the way there are magnificent old cathedrals, and some monasteries and convents provided occasional hospitality for the night for pilgrim walkers. Italy has huge variety, starting in the French speaking Aosta valley in the north, down through the plains with flooded rice fields of the Po River Valley, through Tuscany with its hill-top walled towns and tourists, and on to Rome.”

img_8842According to Kreiss, Kauffman was the first of the Sitkans to hike part of the trail, hiking the last 400 kilometers from Aulla into Rome last spring. Kauffman was joined for the last few days of her hike by her husband, Laufenberg. Kreiss said she was the next to head to Europe, and she hiked nearly the entire trail from Canterbury to Rome, except for St. Bernard’s Pass between Switzerland and Italy due to deep snow. Hegyi and Naylor also walked most of the way later in the spring, starting from Canterbury.

“We all had different experiences,” Kreiss said.

“We hope to cover something on the history of this particular pilgrimage walk. It dates back at least to the Roman era, and some of the walk in England, France and Italy is on old Roman paving stones. I don’t recall seeing Roman roads in Switzerland, but I’m sure the route follows old Roman roads. After all we know, ‘All roads in Europe lead to Rome.’ The present walk is based on 10th Century documentation from Archbishop Sigeric, of Canterbury, who walked to Rome in 970 to meet with the Pope and then walked home again. His scribe made a record of each town they slept in, and that is the basis of the 79 stages of the current Via Francigena. The Via Francigena was made an official Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1994, and has been developed, more or less, by national and regional organizations in the four countries it covers,” Kreiss said.

img_8968“Walking it is probably similar to walking the famous Camino Frances in Spain to Santiago 30 or 40 years ago. People who live along the route often recognize you are a pilgrim as you walk along, and there are some places to stay which are only available to walkers with the special pilgrim’s credential (the little passport which you get stamped every day, so that when you arrive at the Vatican, you have proof that you walked the route). But it is more solitary than the Spanish camino and distances are sometimes longer between towns and accommodations. Probably less than 200 folks walk the entire route each year. Large numbers of walkers do some of the Italian portion.”

img_8139Kreiss said the five hikers will talk about their personal motivations for doing this walk, what to carry, what to expect, and about what we experienced along the way. They will talk about the variety of paths underfoot, the types of lodging, and of course the great food.

“We hope to inspire Sitkans to consider this long walk, or one of the easier pilgrim walks in Europe,” Kreiss said.

Mamie Clare to give presentation on hiking Appalachian Trail on Monday at Sitka Public Library

appalachian-trail-flyer

Sitka resident Mamie Clare will give a presentation about her hike of the Appalachian Trail at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21, at the Sitka Public Library.

In 2016, Mamie hiked the entire 2,189.1-mile trail from Georgia to Maine. Mamie hiked the trail with Taylor Ciambra, a former Jesuit Volunteer who worked in Sitka in 2014. Together they wrote a blog called Blisters Before Misters that recounts their tales of the trail. This event is free.