Sometimes you can't 'Latch
On to the Affirmative'.
By June Allen
January 21, 2006
Well, you have to admit that J.C. Conley got right down to the
nitty-gritty of the present Newtown planning in his outburst
at the recent Chamber meeting. It wasn't the coolest or
most diplomatic speech ever delivered, but there were kernels
of truth in it. Even the best neighborhood "citizen input
plans" often turn out to be well-intentioned but impractical.
Those of us who sat in on the original Creek Street plans in
the early '70s, all those years ago, have to admit that today's
Creek Street doesn't appear anything like the original Creek
Street plans. Just be grateful that the City fixed that boardwalk
street's sewer smell problems.
And Conley was right about the present state of Ketchikan's "downtown"
- those ridiculously crowded street and sidewalk conditions
in the tourist season and then almost everything boarded up in
the winter? That situation wasn't caused by tourism; it was,
as Conley said, caused by the collapse of the town's previous
long standing and basic economic support - the closure of the
pulp mill. Is it surprising that a small businessman, making
half or even less of what he made a couple of years before the
pulp mill left, decided to take a jewelry store's offer of a
million dollars for his store?
That's what happened downtown. And it's probably what will happen
in Newtown, which, by the way, ends at the curve by Talbot's,
where Water Street ends. The stretch of Tongass Avenue beyond
was developed much later. And, the "historic integrity of
Newtown," for anyone interested, was commerce and heavy
industry. Newtown was home to noisy wire works--making wire for
fish traps, and noisy saloons, machine shops, specialty
canning operations, some quieter mercantiles - and some shanty
squats for transients. Should Ketchikan try to replicate that
for its summer guests?
Another thing to consider: As a very long-time greeter on the
downtown cruise ship docks and streets, I think I can say I know
what cruise ship tourists are looking for. Face it: They're looking
for places to shop! And I also hate to say it, especially
as much as I love Ketchikan's history, most tourists really don't
give a hoot about historic integrity. Do the integrity thing
for us, not for them.
If there's one thing Ketchikan does well it's survive and adapt
itself to the vagaries of the economic climate forced upon it.
It survived the collapse of the mining industry and adapted to
the fisheries boom in the '20s. Then it survived the near-collapse
of the fisheries industry in the '50s and subsequently adapted
to the forest products industry -- the pulp mill. When the pulp
mill left in the late '90s, Ketchikan entered its present full-time
tourism stage. Don't knock it and don't bother to fight it, it
pays the bills.
And let's don't knock newcomers who come to Ketchikan and get
involved in civic affairs, whether they arrive as "government
workers" or not. As long as they don't spout, "and
this is the way we did it back in Medford or Oshkosh"
we welcome them to make their mistakes and learn. Newcomers,
annoying as they can be in their innocence, keep us old fogies
on our feet. And, speaking of old fogies, let's forgive J.C.
Conley. Is there any one among us who hasn't lost his/her cool
Palmer, AK - USA
Allen is "a writer always interested in Ketchikan's
fascinating history". She lived in Ketchikan for many, many
years before moving to Palmer.
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on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
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