New wayfinding signs find their way onto Sitka streets and alleys

The new wayfinding kiosk near the tour bus stop on the side of Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Kiosk looking toward Crescent HarborOver the last couple of weeks, Sitka residents and visitors have seen 41 new wayfinding signs pop up on Sitka streets, as well as a new information kiosk just outside Harrigan Centennial Hall. These are part of a lengthy project by Visit Sitka, the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce, and the City and Borough of Sitka to update the wayfinding signs in Sitka.

The new signs use estimated walking times instead of distances to show how far away key landmarks are (using about 10 minutes to represent a half-mile, or slightly less than a kilometer). The use of times instead of distances not only encourages walking, but it also is less confusing to foreign tourists used to the metric system. The designs also include Tlingít formline elements, to honor our local Alaska Native culture.

“The Sitka Wayfinding System was installed in September 2018 (and into October),” said Rachel Roy, executive director of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and Visit Sitka. “This comprehensive and unified directional sign system was customized for our community. Funded with the Commercial Passenger Excise Tax (CPET, or cruise tax) funds, the City of Sitka and a planning committee of tourism industry representatives worked with Great Destinations Strategies to develop a new brand identity for Sitka, and Axia Creative for the sign design and locations.”

A new wayfinding sign in front of Wells Fargo bank, at the corner of Lincoln and Maksoutoff streets, with an old wayfinding sign above.

The project cost just over $300,000 between the branding design and sign costs, Roy said. The branding project started in 2013, and the wayfinding project launched in 2015, with several delays. But the origins of the project can be found all the way back in 1996 in the Gateway tourism plan. The new wayfinding signs will replace the blue signs around town that were installed in 2015 and meant to only be temporary for a year or two.

“The Sitka Wayfinding System serves as a welcome and orientation for visitors, provides a unified image that reflects our community’s character and history, provides a sense of place, a ‘seamless’ experience and a guide to Sitka’s major attractions,” Roy said. “The signs offer visitors access to VisitSitka.org, Sitka’s official visitor website and encourages use of #visitsitka on social media. We are proud to see the signs being used by visitors throughout the community and this further development of our community’s visitor industry infrastructure.”

According to a map sent by City and Borough of Sitka project manager Kelli Cropper, there were 41 wayfinding signs and the one kiosk installed as part of this phase of the project. The majority of the wayfinding signs are on Lincoln Street, but there are a few off Sawmill Creek Road and one on Kaagwaantaan and Barracks streets, plus a few along the Sitka Sea Walk toward the Sitka National Historical Park.

A map showing the locations of the 41 wayfinding signs and new kiosk.

Cropper said there are options to purchase two more kiosks at later dates, with one going underneath the O’Connell Bridge by the lightering dock after the second phase of the Sitka Sea Walk is completed and the other possibly going up on Lincoln Street after that street is upgraded in the next year or two. At this time there are no wayfinding signs on Katlian Street, and any there would have to come during a future phase of the project.

A slideshow showing some of the new wayfinding signs and both sides of the kiosk is posted below.

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KCAW-Raven Radio highlights Sitka’s renewal as a Bronze-level Walk Friendly Community

Click this link to hear an Oct. 31 story from KCAW-Raven Radio about how Sitka became a two-time Bronze-level Walk Friendly Community.

The story includes part of an interview KCAW news director Robert Woolsey did with Charles Bingham, who wrote the original Walk Friendly Community application in 2013 and the renewal application in 2017. In the interview, they discuss the 40-page application and what goes into a walkable community.

Sitka renews bronze-level designation in Walk Friendly Communities program

The City and Borough of Sitka earned a renewal of its bronze-level Walk Friendly Communities designation, joining seven other communities announced on Oct. 18 (Alaska Day) that they earned their first or renewed their previous designations. In 2013, Sitka became the first and so far only town in Alaska to earn a bronze-level or higher designation from the Walk Friendly Communities program, coordinated by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Juneau has honorable mention status).

“I am proud of the hard work city staff has done to improve the lives of Sitkans with the limited funding we have available,” Sitka Mayor Matt Hunter said. “Thank you to the dedicated group of citizens who spend their time advocating for safer streets and who seek to recognize the city’s efforts.”

Becoming a Walk Friendly Community was a community wellness project of the 2008 and 2012 Sitka Health Summits (the 2008 project was before there was a national Walk Friendly Communities program). In 2008, Sitka residents wanted the community to be friendlier to people walking or riding bikes (Sitka earned its first Bicycle Friendly Community designation that year), and in 2012 they wanted to add the WFC designation to the BFC award. Sitka is the only community in Alaska with both Walk Friendly Communities (bronze in 2013 and 2017) and Bicycle Friendly Community  (bronze in 2008 and 2012, silver in 2016) designations.

The WFC award came about when community members decided they wanted to improve and recognize Sitka as a walkable community. The Walk Sitka work group followed a national template developed by the Walk Friendly Communities program designed to help cities and towns become more walkable. The community assessment tool/application (click here for Sitka’s 2017 renewal application) helps communities identify their walking strengths and weaknesses by asking dozens of questions in the following categories — community profile, current status of walking, planning, education and encouragement, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation.

“We hoped we might upgrade to the silver level this time, but we’re still the only official Walk Friendly Communities award-winner in Alaska,” said Charles Bingham, who helped coordinate the Walk Sitka group and wrote the WFC applications in 2013 and 2017. “We’re happy to win the award, but we’re also happy for the feedback we received to help make Sitka a more walkable community.”

Walk Friendly Communities is a national recognition program developed to encourage towns and cities across the U.S. to establish or recommit to a high priority for supporting safer walking environments, according to the program’s website. The WFC program recognizes communities that are working to improve a wide range of conditions related to walking, including safety, mobility, access, and comfort.

“The majority of trips in the car are for less than three miles, and if we can encourage people to walk or bike instead we promote a culture of wellness,” Bingham said. “Not only are people getting heart-healthy physical health benefits from walking, there are benefits for mental and emotional health when you take a walk in the woods. In addition, by walking and biking we reduce the amount of car exhaust we have to breathe, and there are economic benefits when we have walkable communities. There also are increased social connections when people, because neighbors can chat with each other instead of being barricaded in a steel box on wheels.”

The eight new or renewing Walk Friendly Communities for Fall 2017 were Washington, D.C., at the gold level; Columbus, Ohio; Long Beach, Calif.; and Redwood City, Calif.; at the silver level; and Essex Junction, Vt.; Gainesville, Fla.; Northampton, Mass.; and Sitka; at the bronze level. They bring the nation’s total to 67 awardees in the program at four levels — bronze, silver, gold, and platinum (Seattle and New York City are the lone platinum WFCs). In 2011, Juneau received an honorable mention in the program but has not earned a full WFC designation. The Walk Friendly Communities designation is good for five years, and Sitka doesn’t have to renew its award until the spring of 2022, although it can apply earlier if it thinks it’s ready to upgrade a level.

“Communities nationwide are implementing some very impressive plans and projects to create welcoming pedestrian environments,” said Dan Gelinne, WFC program manager. “All cities and towns face challenges related to pedestrian safety and walkability, but these Walk Friendly Communities are well-positioned to address these concerns and proactively improve their streets. We hope their innovative projects and programs can serve as models to other communities.”

The Walk Friendly Communities program has two application periods each year. Each application is reviewed by at least three reviewers to provide a fair assessment of the community and technical feedback on how to improve the community’s walkability.

Some of the major changes since Sitka’s 2013 application included the replacement of the Indian River Pedestrian Bridge in Sitka National Historical Park, the multi-purpose path from Whale Park to the end of Sawmill Creek Road, funding commitments for two extensions to the Sitka Sea Walk and to finish the Cross Trail, a new multi-purpose path on Edgecumbe Drive, proposed bike-walk improvements to Sawmill Creek Road from the roundabout to Jeff Davis Street, new walking encouragement programs, and more.

According to Sitka’s community report card and feedback (posted at the bottom of this article):

“Based on our review, we are re-designating Sitka as a Bronze-level Walk Friendly Community. Among the many programs and initiatives you shared with us, we were particularly impressed with:

  • The consistently high walking mode share and (low) pedestrian crash rate.
  • The level of planning effort and community support for Sitka’s trail system.
  • Slow speed limits through downtown and in school zones, paired with pedestrian countdown signals at Sitka’s two main intersections.
  • The variety and frequency of walking programs.”

The Walk Friendly Communities program was launched in October 2010. It is coordinated by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), which is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It is funded by FedEx Corp.

The next WFC application deadline is Dec. 15, with the results announced in April 2018. Interested communities can go to http://www.walkfriendly.org/, where they can learn more about the program and review the community assessment tool.

• Sitka, Alaska, 2017 Walk Friendly Communities Report Card and Feedback

• National press release for October 2017 Walk Friendly Communities

• 2017 Walk Friendly Communities renewal application for Sitka, Alaska

• 2013 Walk Friendly Communities application for Sitka, Alaska

• Sitka, Alaska, 2013 Walk Friendly Communities Report Card and Feedback

Sitka Community Hospital to host Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on Saturday, Oct. 7

The Sitka Community Hospital Radiology Department is hosting a Breast Cancer Awareness Walk at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, along the Sitka Sea Walk.

Walkers should gather between 9:30-9:55 a.m. under the Crescent Harbor covered shelter. Pink and black hats will be available for all who sign in, and water will be provided.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this event helps remind women to get regular mammograms to ensure their health. The hospital’s foundation also has a Breast Scholarship Fun, which provides mammograms for uninsured and underinsured women.

For more information, contact Denise DenHerder at 747-1725.

Sitka’s renewal application for a 2017 Walk Friendly Communities designation has been submitted

Walk Sitka has submitted its renewal application for a 2017 Walk Friendly Communities award designation. The application period closed on Thursday, June 15, and results will be announced in a few months. In 2013, Sitka earned a Bronze Level WFC designation, and we’re hoping to move up to Silver or Gold this year.

Applying for a Walk Friendly Communities designation was one of three community wellness projects chosen at the 2012 Sitka Health Summit. By going through this national award application process we hoped to gain a better handle on the status of walking in Sitka and what we can do to improve it. We feel there have been many improvements to walking in Sitka just in the past year, with the launch of many walking programs (Park Prescriptions, Sitka Trail Works weekend hikes, Senior Hiking Club, etc.), the construction on the Sitka Sea Walk and upcoming expansions, continued construction on the Cross Trail and other Sitka Trail Works projects, and more.

The 72-page community assessment tool, which helps communities fill out the application, has nine sections — Community Profile, Status of Walking, Planning, Education and Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation and Additional Questions. Once submitted, the actual application printed out at 40 pages.

A copy of our 2013 and 2017 applications are posted below, along with our 2013 report card from the WFC program. Feel free to review it and let us know ways we can make Sitka more walk friendly. So far, Sitka is the only community in Alaska to earn a Bronze Level or higher Walk Friendly Communities designation (Juneau received an honorable mention in 2010). Don’t forget to like our Facebook page and watch this site for updates.

• 2017 Walk Friendly Communities application for Sitka, Alaska

• 2013 Walk Friendly Communities application for Sitka, Alaska

• Sitka, Alaska, 2013 Walk Friendly Communities Report Card and Feedback

KCAW-Raven Radio to host Only Fools Run At Midnight on Saturday, June 24

Mark your calendars! Sitka’s wildest running event, the 14th annual Only Fools Run at Midnight, is coming up at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 24, with a brand new course. The race starts and finishes at Harrigan Centennial Hall and follows the Sitka Sea Walk (so no roads to cross, making it safer at night). KCAW-Raven Radio is delighted to bring you this costume-clad evening full of family fun and prizes.

Registration info and race details are available at kcaw.org, and the entry fee is $20 ($25 the night of the race). Prizes will be awarded for fastest finishers, best costumes, and wackiest centipede (five or more people attached in some form or fashion). Creativity is encouraged.

There are t-shirts for the first 200 to register, and lots of entertainment and fun to keep folks wide awake for the midnight run. Funky pre-race entertainment will be provided by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp staff.

For questions and more information, visit www.kcaw.org or contact Ken or Rachel Fate at 747-5877 or send email to foolsrun@kcaw.org.

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Girls on the Run to close out season with beach-themed 5K community fun run on May 13

 
The Sitka Girls On The Run program will host celebrate the end of its ninth season with a beach/Hawaiian themed five-kilometer run from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 13, with the start-finish line at the Crescent Harbor covered shelter. The fun run and ceremony will honor the girls, who have been training all spring at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

This is a family friendly event, and tutus and bright colors are encouraged, but not required. Volunteers and cheerleaders also are needed so they can make the event extra special for our participants. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Volunteer — There are quite a few volunteer positions available, some of which also allow volunteers to run in the event (all allow volunteers to be cheerleaders). Volunteer time requirements vary by assignment. Please register at http://tinyurl.com/GOTR5K2017. Please contact Lauren Havens at lhavens@safv.org or 747-3489 with any questions.
  • Cheerleader — Position yourself along the course between 9:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. to cheer the girls on as they run. The run starts at the Crescent Harbor covered shelter, runs along the Sitka Sea Walk and through the Sitka National Historical Park’s Totem Trails and back, so there are plenty of places to cheer people on. Bring a sign and bright colors and a positive attitude.

Girls On The Run is a life-changing empowerment program for girls in third through fifth grade. We teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory five-kilometer (3.1-mile) running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.

The 12-week program is one of several in the region. GOTR of Greater Alaska operates Girls On The Run programs in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Yakutat, along with similar programs in other Alaska communities. Check out what the program is all about. Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV) hosts the GOTR program in Sitka.

Please help spread the word and encourage family members and friends to make the 2017 5K Community Fun Run a success.