Japan Trip

Students at the Skagway School have begun planning the type of trip most people take once per life. During spring break in 2020, around 18 students will travel to Japan, visiting Tokyo, Hiroshima and other cities in the country.

“Right now we’re setting up interviews with people, just like they did in the Marshall Islands, they’ll have some interviews before they get there, they’ll meet people when they get there,” Fielding said.

They’ll also visit different museums, like the military history museum in Tokyo and the peace memorial in Hiroshima, with the overall goal of the trip being to learn more about nuclear weapons and their impact on the world.

Fielding said there have been a lot of foreign exchange students that have come to Skagway from Japan, and he’s been in contact with several of them to help out with different aspects of the trip.

Former exchange student Emily Jashiki’s father is a cab driver in Tokyo, Fielding said, and he’ll be able to act as the group’s guide while they are in that city. Emily Jashiki’s sister, Alini Jashiki, lives in Okinawa, so the students will also have a resource/guide should the group travel to that city as well.

“We’re also going to visit Japanese schools and see what the difference is between American schools and the Japanese school system,” Fielding said. “While the primary focus is nuclear weapons and the history of nuclear weapons, there’s also cultural stuff that we’re going to look at. I really want the students to take off [and see] really what they are interested in, not just force them into nuclear weapons.”

A Skagway graduate, Shelby Surdyk, is going to be working on a nuclear awareness conference in Juneau, and Fielding said the plan is to connect the Japan project with Surdyk’s work. She’s been hired by several Juneau organizations to bring high school and college students from across the world to talk about nuclear weapons.

The trip is a spiritual successor to the successful Climate Change Project, which wrapped up last year with a trip to the Marshall Islands. Fielding said that experience brought a lot of growth out in the students, both in writing and speaking abilities, and in other ways.

“Also this interest in, this awareness of where the Marshall Islands is located, the actual problems that the Marshallese are faced with,” Fielding said. “And for some of them, a really growing interest or acknowledgement or commitment to climate change.”

Students had to present information on the project to the School Board, write interview questions and keep a daily blog. While in the Marshall Islands, they met with players in the field of climate change and the eighth president of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine.

Students took the project farther than expected when they returned, by hosting a multi-day Climate Change Conference during 2017’s Fall Festival, arranging guest speakers and activities for the event.

Students will be working to fundraise for the trip; a Burger Feed at the Elks is scheduled for Nov. 9, and there are ideas to host an international dinner event and perform odd jobs like dog sitting and dog walking to help raise the money. Fielding said it would cost around $2,500 per student for the Japan trip.

The Climate Change Project students had $3,200 left over from their trip to the Marshall Islands, and Fielding said they chose to give that to the students preparing for the Japan trip.

“Which actually makes some sense, because they were all part of the Climate Change [Project] and went to the Marshall Islands and they felt it was such a rewarding experience that they wanted other students to have that experience too,” Fielding said.

Traditional Councils plans 2019 air quality study

Following up on a study performed from 2004-2005, the Skagway Traditional Council will be testing air quality in town from the months of April-September in 2019.

The study will be testing for particulate matter of 2.5 microns and less in diameter (PM 2.5). The goal is to proactively protect the health of Skagway residents and determine if the increasing summer tourism is causing elevated levels of PM 2.5.

“PM 2.5 are small, super-tiny inhalable particles that are in the air from dust, exhaust, different emissions, chemicals and other allergens,” said Traditional Council Environmental Coordinator Nicole Kovacs. PM 2.5 can cause irritation to the lungs, exacerbate allergies and asthma.

The 2004 study had two quality meters, one at the Recreation Center and one at the old police station. The findings in that showed the particulate measured within the health standards of the time, but Kovacs said the standard was since made more strict.

The 2019 study will have at least three data collection points: one at he small boat harbor downwind of the Railroad Dock, one at the Traditional Council on 11th Avenue and one on the northwest corner of 21st Avenue and Main Street. The April-September timetable will help the Traditional Council get measurements before Skagway gets underway and busy with the season, and during the peak tourist rush times.

“We’re going to put together a little report and look at the data and look at the past study that’s been done, and see if there’s any cause for concern, does this warrant any future studies to kind of dive into it a little deeper to see specifically what’s causing it,” Kovacs said.

White Pass to add two new mooring dolphins over winter

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is planning work to install two additional 200-ton capacity mooring dolphins on the Railroad Dock to accommodate two neo-Panamax size vessels on that side of the port.

On alternating Tuesdays, the Royal Princess will tie off at the Railroad Dock, and every other week both the Norwegian Bliss and Joy will both be stationed there on Wednesdays.

The project should be completed in April 2019, said White Pass Executive Director of Human Resources and Strategic Planning Tyler Rose, and construction should begin in January/February. Currently the railroad has finished the design process and is working on permitting, Rose said.

“With this expansion, and it is a substantial investment, we’re going to be able to accommodate more passengers, which by and large is good for the community, and not just the business community,” Rose said. “Our ability to accommodate these larger vessels is going to be what sustains our tourism economy in the coming years.”

Assembly approves short-term rental code amendments

Skagway’s Borough Assembly has approved amendments to municipal code that removed references to the hotel room tax, and changing it to an eight percent short-term rental tax. The changes lay out that overnight accommodations of less than 30 days are subject to the tax.

“It changes the hotel room tax into a short-term rental tax which kind of pulls in the Air BnB [and] VRBO short-term stays,” said Assembly Member Steve Burnham. The ordinance was approved 5-0 on its second reading on Oct. 18.

Redwood Water Tank soon to finish project

A municipal project that has been in the works for a long time is soon coming to a close. The Borough Assembly approved a $31,920 quote for waterproof roofing installation for the Redwood Water Tank, which is being constructed behind the Public Safety Facility. Co-Borough Manager Emily Deach said with the installation of the roofing, the tank is expected to be put through its final paces and into official use by the start of November.

Engineering quote for 11th, 12th avenue paving approved

At its Oct. 18 meeting, the Borough Assembly approved a quote for engineering services regarding the paving of 11th and 12th avenues. The engineering is not to exceed $40,670.

The streets are one the approach to the bus loading area used by the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad; Assembly Member Orion Hanson said one is right next to the Skagway Traditional Council, and the other is surrounded by residential property.

“And the dust is really bad, we’ve had complaints from citizens for years about this – it’s gravel currently – and with the increased bus traffic there I think this is really important we do it,” Hanson said. He added that the borough is trying to couple the repaving with the 2019 State Street Utility Replacement project, since temporary asphalt patching will be used in that project. Doing both at the same time will save on costs, Hanson said.

“This is in-line with past engineering fees we’ve paid for similar-sized tasks,” Hanson said. The assembly approved the quote 5-0.