SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Beach Recreation Areas Limited In Ketchikan Says KBA


February 05, 2007

Ketchikan, Alaska - Ketchikan is an island community, yet shoreline areas suitable for recreation and public use are limited and in danger of declining and Ketchikan Beaches Association (KBA) would like to do something about that. According to this local group, research shows that nine percent of shoreline accessible by the road system on Revilla Island is under public management and available for recreation and general pubic use. The remaining 91% of Ketchikan's 38 miles of shoreline is private, subdivided, commercial, industrial, steep and unsuitable for recreation, or for boat harbor use says KBA.

The shoreline research was done by KBA member Eric Muench, a forest engineer, using data from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planning Department. Muench assessed saltwater shoreline areas accessible within a quarter to half mile from the Ketchikan road system which included 200,000 feet of shoreline (38 miles) from the Settlers Cove Park on the north to the Beaver Falls Cannery property to the south.

jpg Coast Guard Beach

Coast Guard Beach
Photograph by Ardath Piston

Finding a community beach with public access may be getting even harder as the current owner of the local Coast Guard Beach, the Alaska Mental Health Trust (AMHT), has stated its intent to rezone and subdivide the waterfront property. These beaches and other AMHT lands, South Point Higgins Beach, Surprise Beach, and Mountain Point Beach, boat launch and harbor are 1/3 of the nine percent of available Ketchikan recreation land.

Alaska Mental Health Trust lands are managed by the Trust Land Office (TLO). The Trust Land Office is mandated to generate maximum revenue from their lands to benefit recipients of mental health services throughout Alaska. These properties could be sold to private stakeholders to meet this mandate if AMHT decides.

Formal designation of Coast Guard Beach as a park has been a community priority since the Borough's 1976 Comprehensive Plan according to Ketchikan Beaches Association. In 1985 the Borough also passed resolution 607 that stated, "The Assembly supports the establishment, expansion and maintenance of State Park facilities at Coast Guard Beach located at Point Higgins for the citizens of the Ketchikan region as one of the area s prime waterfront recreation sites."

The limited shoreline set aside for public use in Ketchikan is a concern causing some Ketchikan residents to take direct action. Ketchikan Beaches Association (KBA), group of concerned residents, organized to raise awareness and develop alternatives to the development of two beach properties - Coast Guard Beach and the South Point Higgins Beach. Primarily KBA is focused on raising the funding needed to acquire these two properties so that they will be publicly accessible in perpetuity. KBA s coordinator Carrie Dolwick said the acquisition of these two beaches from private hands and into public management will preserve current usable beach areas held by AMHT. "Recreation areas and open space makes Ketchikan an attractive place to live and work," Dolwick said. "They also increase the value of neighboring residential property."

Community members first learned of the potential rezone and subdivision during the process to find funding to complete the trail from Point Higgins Elementary School to Coast Guard Beach. According to Dolwick, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough was applying for an Alaska State Parks grant to complete the upgrade of the trail. The grant stalled when the Trust Land Office would not allow the pursuit of permits necessary for the grant award. The Trust Land Office stated "authorized use of the trail by the general public and trail construction, reconstruction or maintenance is not authorized until such time as rezone and subdivision of Trust land, USS 3762, also locally known as Coast Guard Beach, is complete."

Ardath Piston, co-chair of the KBA said, "I and many others frequent Coast Guard and South Point Higgins Beaches often, finding them perfect for walking dogs, hiking, camping, and beach combing. Not only are these two beaches undeveloped, but they offer unobstructed views of the surrounding area and are free of tourists. The Beaches are one of the draws of living in Ketchikan and in my neighborhood."

"The Ketchikan Beaches Association is working with Alaska Mental Health Trust to finalize a purchase and sales agreement and are pursuing fund raising opportunities," Dolwick said, "[in] the mean time we are also pursuing alternatives through the Borough assembly and state agencies."

Ketchikan Beaches Association members will approach the Borough Assembly at the February 5th meeting to get the process started. "If you value our public spaces please contact the Assembly mayor and members to support this effort," said KBA member Eric Muench.


Related Story:

Group works to secure long-term public access to Coast Guard and South Point Higgins Beaches

On the Web:

Contact Borough Assembly Members

Download the Ketchikan Assembly February 5th Agenda & Information Packet


Ketchikan Beaches Association


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Ketchikan, Alaska