Nahku Bay uplands management plan sent back for minor revisions

Management plans for the upland portion of the Nahku Bay Conservation Area were brought before the Borough Assembly for review on March 1, and subsequently were handed back to the committee in charge for a few clarifications.

In April of 2017, the assembly had approved plans to manage the Nahku Bay beach area. The plans discussed on March 1 are the second part of the equation for governing usage of the entire property, which was purchased from the estate of Bud Matthews in 2016.

Different types of allowed non-commercial, recreational uses laid out in the plan include: Walking, skiing, biking, snowshoeing, interpreting and education, remote control airplanes, driftwood harvest and numerous other things. Commercial activity is to be limited in the area, with the exception of low-impact harvesting of plants and driftwood, cold water rescue and kayak safety training and the summer season rental of the on-site cabins. Nahku Bay Property Oversight Ad Hoc Committee Member Michael Yee said there is still a bit of work left to do, but that the committee’s recommendation should “provide us with a great foundation to go onward.”

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of public support throughout this process and for our efforts here,” Yee said. “I think Bud would be happy with what we’ve come up with and pretty proud of what we’ve come up with so far.”

The list of prohibited activities includes the operation of motor vehicles, dumping of refuse, commercial activities like tours and horseback riding in the uplands areas.

Hanson said the ad hoc committee kept several things in mind while working on the plan and the allowed uses.

“There was a great deal of thought put into the legacy of this property, that has been really kept out of development by Bud Matthews, and also the historic aspect of the Tlingit influence in this area,” Hanson said.

Looking forward, Hanson said the water quality maintenance of Matthew’s Creek could be valuable in the future.

“And we should hold that at a paramount, beyond any other kind of concepts that we come up with down the road, that having clean drinking water down there – which is utilized by the residents of the area now who don’t have wells that have potable water – is something that is pretty valuable,” Hanson said.

Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. questioned a few things in the plan on points of clarification, such as the direction that cold water rescue and kayak safety training “leave no footprint,” and what constituted “green cleaning products.”

Assembly Member David Brena also questioned some of the allowed uses, saying he could see a trend of quiet, non-impact uses, but there were some allowed activities that stood out as exceptions, like remote controlled airplanes.

“The reasoning was…it was part of a traditional use as well, Bud allowed that, and we’ve tried to stay as close as possible – we’ve debated that quite a bit actually – but Bud allowed it and so we left it in there,” Yee said in response.

To clarify a few of the questions asked, the assembly directed the borough clerk to work with the committee to clear up some of the issues raised.

In the meantime, the assembly approved two things from the plan: A memorial stele, and upgrades to the Nahku Beach beach fire pit.

The stele will cost around $1,100 and is essentially a 6-foot, 10-inch square post with a copper cap and inset metal engraved plate. It is to be installed in the meadow across the path from the fire pit, behind the high tide line of the beach area.

Elder Care Committee continues drumming out business plan

The recently-formed Elder Care Committee is still working on concocting a business plan for a senior center/assisted living facility. In its third meeting on Feb. 28, the ad hoc committee ran through items like estimated expenses, application processes and the potential of utilizing volunteers to help care for residents, but the group still remains in the thick of the details of planning for operation of the facility.

“Things that have to be done before we can move forward any more,” Committee Member Kathy O’Daniel explained.

Committee Member Denise Caposey said the drive is to have the facility accommodate independent living with contracted assisted living services.
“I think that’s really what we’re going to end up with,” Caposey said. “Independent living with outside contracted services for needs beyond independent living.”

Assembly accepts proposals for services, issues RFB

The Borough Assembly got down to some new business at its March 1 meeting, reviewing and approving two proposals for services, and issuing a request for bids (RFB) for a separate topic: electrical repairs to the Garden City RV Park.

The RFB for work at Garden City is for repairs the Alaska Power and Telephone Company said are necessary to bring the infrastructure up to code. City staff and the Finance Committee recommended seeking a direct buried cable option, as opposed to laying electrical lines with conduit, which would be more expensive. The estimated cost for the electrical work is $128,973.

“That’s what Finance recommended since this is most likely a short-term fix,” Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. said. “It will hopefully last the life of the RV Park in its current use situation.”

The assembly has been holding conversations in recent months about its RV parks, and how to manage RV visitors in the future. Part of that discussion involves looking at the expense of putting water and sewer across the bridge, for which the assembly also approved a proposal for engineering design and services at its March 1 meeting.

The services would be provided by PDC Engineers, and will cost $209,078.

Finally, the assembly gave a thumbs-up to engineering services for the Mollie Walsh Restroom Expansion, also to be provided by PDC. This batch of engineering work is expected to cost $24,297.

All three items – the two service proposals and issuing the RFB for the electrical work – were approved 6-0 by the assembly.

Parking, traffic flow reform discussion ongoing

The Public Safety and Civic Affairs committees have continued to hammer out a new proposed parking plan and traffic flow strategy in an attempt to alleviate congestion in the downtown corridor.

The parking situation between First and Seventh along Broadway occupied the bulk of discussion at a March 6 meeting. Public Safety Committee Chair Dan Henry said one of the objectives of the joint committee meetings is to standardize the parking rules.

“The one difficult thing that always pops up is that we have had to deal with specific issues with each specific block rather than looking at it in a general sense as one big picture, because of course everybody, as you would expect, brings their wants, needs and desires to whatever block they’re working on or living on,” Henry said.

“But the bigger picture is, what are we going to do when you add even more people and more vehicles into this equation, which is what’s going to happen with these bigger vessels,” Henry continued, referencing the larger classes of cruise ships forecasted to visit in coming Skagway summers. A more uniform approach to parking in town would ease confusion for out-of-town visitors, Henry said, and get people parking in the correct spots.

Currently, the plan is to take the east side of Broadway and make it into one-hour parking between First and Seventh. The west side would be designated 20-minute parking. For the cross-streets, the north sides would be 20-minute parking as well, with the south sides of all cross streets designated as two-hour parking.

Civic Affairs Chair David Brena did question the 20-minute limits, saying they don’t serve the needs of the restaurants up and down Broadway.

“I don’t know who’s going to park in some of these spots for 20 minutes when you start looking at these side streets on the north end,” Brena said.

At the end of the March 6 meeting, it was agreed to have Police Chief Ray Leggett collaborate with the borough’s permitting official to work the current loading zones for businesses and SMART Shuttle stops into the draft of the proposed parking changes. The joint committees have also made progress in determining a solution to summertime bus traffic.

Henry said the plan is to have buses come southward through State Street, take First, make a right onto Broadway and then proceed to use the no-name street connecting Congress Way and Broadway to get to the Railroad Dock. Buses would stage on “no-name” and First – Henry said about a dozen could be accommodated using both streets.
On their way back, the buses would take “no-name” back to Broadway and turn right to head northward through town. No empty buses would be allowed southbound on Broadway, Henry said.

One aim of this orchestrated bus ballet is to keep traffic moving around Second and Broadway – one of the sites of major summertime traffic congestion that the committees have been looking to alleviate.

The redirection will prevent buses from having to make a wide right turn at that intersection, which Henry said can hamper the flow of southbound car traffic, and should give the smaller vehicles a better chance to get across Broadway without incident.

“You will see no buses northbound on Congress Way passing Pullen Pond,” Henry said.