SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Public Beaches Under Threat
By Eric Muench


February 05, 2007

Ketchikan Beaches Association was formed to preserve public use of historic recreational beaches of the Ketchikan area. There are not very many. For an island community, we have surprisingly few saltwater beaches close to our road system that are available to the public. Of the 38 shoreline miles between Shelter Cove and Beaver Falls, almost all is private and subdivided, commercial or industrial, deep water docks and harbors, or extremely steep and unsuitable for public access. Only 9% (about 3.4 miles) is accessible, available and useable for swimming, fishing, hiking and other recreation, and it is all heavily used by area people.

But now almost 40% of that little bit is threatened. Over ten years ago the State transferred Coast Guard Beach, Driftwood Beach, Whipple Creek beach and the Mountain Point beach and boat launch over to the Alaska Mental Health Trust in order to get itself out of a legal bind. The Mental Health Trust was created to help Alaskans with mental health problems, not to make headaches for the communities they live in. However the Trust Land Office does its job by raising maximum revenue from its lands for funding Trust programs, even if that is detrimental to the public welfare.

At the moment Coast Guard Beach, between the North and South Point Higgins Roads, and Driftwood Beach (also known as South Point Higgins Beach) appear under the greatest threat. The Trust Land Office has asked for a guarantee of rezone and subdivision of Coast Guard Beach property before it will allow even temporary continued public use of the property. This despite its historic public use, its inclusion as recreation site in the Comprehensive Plan and its present zoning of Public Lands and Institutions .

Ketchikan Beaches Association (formerly known as Coast Guard Beach Working Group) is composed mostly of Point Higgins PTA and many people who have put in countless hours to build the Coast Guard Beach Trail which they made available to everyone. Now it needs the support of all Borough citizens to keep the public from being shut out of this well loved site, as well as to protect other public beaches. We need everyone to ask the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly to work with Alaska Mental Health Trust to make a plan of recreation use or acquisition by purchase or land exchange that will serve both the monetary needs of the Trust and public interest of the community.

KBA will approach the Borough Assembly at the February 5 meeting to get the process started. If you value our public spaces please contact the Assembly mayor and members to support this effort.

Eric Muench
Ketchikan, AK

Received February 04, 2007 - Published February 05, 2006

About: " I am a long term Borough resident who wants valuable public lands to remain open to the public"




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