SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Library Location
By Orrin A. Chenhall


August 19, 2010
Thursday AM

After reading everyone's letters, hearing radio call-ins and talking to people throughout the community; the picture is starting to come into focus: Our library is seen either as an essential public facility that requires the most convenient access for the most amount of people, or as a tourist attraction, there to give the impression of a "vibrant" downtown so that visitors feel like they are in a real community, as opposed to some quasi "Alaska Land" amusement park.

Last night on KRBD when asked how many Ketchikan residents actually live in the downtown area, Mr. Shay stated that Kent Miller conducted a study revealing 34% of the city's residents live within a ten minute walk of downtown. Interesting. How far can you walk in ten minutes? I can walk from the tunnel to my house at the corner of 2nd Ave and Austin in ten minutes and I certainly don't consider that downtown. Did the residents of bear valley get counted as living in "downtown" by the ten minute test? For us in these
neighborhoods, Copper Ridge is by far more convenient.

The deceptiveness is pretty obvious, but understandable, otherwise they would have to admit that much fewer than 34% of the community actually live downtown and would be the ones adversely effected by the library moving less than 1/2 of a mile away from its current site. I realize some Pennock Island residents find a downtown library easier to access, but you can't always have your cake and eat it too. If you choose to live on a different island from the rest of the town, you should expect access to everything to be a little more difficult, that's the trade-off for the positive aspects of living over there.

So who is it that is really pushing for prop. #2? Downtown business interests. It isn't an argument about actually using the library, it's about Ketchikan's image and how much money can be made off of that image. If marketability to tourists is going to become our number one (and apparently only) priority for development, then we might as well disband our political bodies all together and just let the downtown merchant's
association run the town.

Even if we assume that marketing to tourists is our only concern, keeping the library where it is still doesn't make any sense. The Centennial Building was built to be a museum, the library being there was only supposed to be temporary. If the building was able to fulfill it's original purpose, it could be one for the travel magazines for a long time to come. With the amazing setting and the great job our museum staff does, Ketchikan could have a really fantastic facility that would be exactly what people pay money to come here and see. Tourists don't have library cards for our library, and any internet use done at the library is taking away business from the internet cafes and other downtown businesses that offer wi-fi services to get tourists to shop at their stores. Not to mention reducing availability for the residents who's only internet access is at the library.

Lastly I want to address the continued litany about the "rock pit". Has it been so long since Ketchikan residents have heard what development sounds like that they don't recognize it anymore? The contract to get rock out of the pit is up next spring, so that isn't going to go on forever. But how else do you expect to promote economic development? By keeping everything in already established locations and never breaking ground anywhere else? Once the library gets built on Copper Ridge, it will open a whole new area of Ketchikan and be an incentive to continue developing in the neighborhood. It's good for the whole town, maybe just less so for already established downtown businesses, who have already driven most locals away from their area, and now are upset that the rest of the community is audacious enough to want our public facilities to actually be for the public.

Vote Yes Please on # 1 and NO Thanks on # 2. This is still our community, don't give it away to a hand full of downtown merchants and property owners who would use our most important civic institutions as public funded tourist attractions, for the benefit of only themselves.

Thank You,

Orrin A. Chenhall
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Lifelong resident, k-high graduate, chef at pioneers home, avid reader and library user"

Received August 18, 2010 - Published August 19, 2010



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