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Bridge to Gravina
By Kathy McNulty


June 17, 2005

I grew up in Ketchikan, graduating Kayhi in 1986. I have been following the stories about the bridge to Gravina with interest and amazement. I just can't imagine a bridge ruining the beautiful Tongass Narrows. But I don't live there anymore, and realize that progress marches on, even in Ketchikan. I hear you even have a Wal-Mart now!!

But I would like to caution the residents regarding the cemeteries and Native burial grounds that have been under discussion on Sitnews. I live now in Port Angeles, Washington, where a few years ago a huge project was slated to be built. It was a "graving yard", essentially a dry-dock for the construction of pontoons and parts needed to replace the aging Hood Canal Bridge. This graving yard was to bring family-wage jobs to Port Angeles for many years to come. It was to be built on our waterfront, which, in many ways, is very similar to Ketchikan. However, a few months into construction Native artifacts and skeletons were unearthed. The local tribe of Natives, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, claimed these artifacts as their ancestors and wanted to excavate and preserve the area. To make a long story short, the fight dragged out for over a year, resulting in the complete shutdown of the construction site, the state scrambling for a new site to build the dry-dock and a loss of over 50 million taxpayer dollars. Yes, I said 50 million. And nothing was built here.

Perhaps there can be a lesson here for the residents of Ketchikan. Be very careful. Be sure the bridge site is fully explored for artifacts and skeletons. In a different time, these sites were thoughtlessly paved over and built upon all over the Pacific Northwest coast. Times have changed, and this politically incorrect treatment is no longer tolerated. It was a huge loss to our community to lose the graving yard dry-dock. The community also suffered a comeback in prejudice and hate crime against Natives. Thankfully these incidents were limited to a few small-minded groups. Anyone who wants to research the circumstances around our lost graving yard can search the archives of the Peninsula Daily News.

While I don't agree with the name-calling and anger that some have been spending a lot of time on here, I do agree that a bridge over the Tongass Narrows seems ridiculous in a community that is steadily losing population and industry. Tourism has become Number One in Ketchikan and I don't see how a bridge can possibly improve the aesthetics of your area. I think only a few would actually benefit from this improved access to Gravina and Pennock. Maybe there are some other areas on Revillagegado that could be developed.

Good luck to all involved in this project. If the residents have voted on it, then it should be done. As for me, I always thought the Airport Ferry was a unique feature of Ketchikan, and look forward to those short trips across the Narrows that mean that I'm home for a bit.

Kathy McNulty
Port Angeles,WA - USA



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