SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



The earmarks for the bridge are gone
By Patrick Jirschele


November 22, 2005

The earmarks for the bridge are gone and the folks in the Anchorage area are figuring out how to spend our $223 million. It is not likely Ketchikan is part of their planning. Ok, it is possible that our bridge will be built; of course with changing global weather patterns, hell could freeze over too.
We need to have a plan "B" in place if we are to keep any of that money and the jobs that go with it here in Ketchikan. Since the idea of the bridge was to make it more convenient to get to the airport, I think some of that money should be directed to that end.
Maybe we could get an enclosed ferry terminal on the city side. A covered drop off (on both sides), heat, bathrooms, and luggage check-in would go a long way to make a trip to the airport a better experience.
We should extend the road from the airport to the Gravina Point area and build a ferry terminal for the Lituya. Then put in a small boat harbor with 20 to 30 slips around Clam Cove. This would give two ferries, small boats and the Water Taxi for folks to use. This would open access to a lot of private and Borough property and encourage development and recreation.
We should build a road down the middle of Pennock and then build a terminal around Baldheaded Cove. Another small boat harbor should be built there. The center of Pennock would be a great place for a Golf course.
The Lituya would have four terminals, Metlakatla, Saxman, Gravina and Pennock. This would put the Lituya to greater use and make it easier for the folks from Metlakatla to get to the airport.
All this can be built with local labor and not some giant bridge company with its own imported specialized labor.
Pennock and Gravina are untapped gold mines and we don't need a bridge to develop them. The median home in San Juan County is $407,500 and $348,200 in King County. Cruise around Puget Sound, there are not many shacks on the waterfront. Property on the islands with ferry access is expensive.
Imagine an affordable home on a golf course in the middle of Pennock Island. A fifteen minute skiff ride and you are in the National Forest. A five minute skiff ride and you are downtown Ketchikan with access to restaurants, stores and medical facilities. In bad weather or when you have a lot of groceries, you can take the Water Taxi or a ferry. Proper marketing could attract the fifty plus, second home demographic. Around this influx of population would grow the building industry, grow our excellent health care industry, and all the other services needed to support this citizenry. It will provide a needed tax base.
Instead of promoting our past to more and more five hour tourists, we should be promoting our future to folks who want to invest and build homes here. Part time tourism, empty jewelry stores and a government that kowtows to the cruise industry's every demand is creating a hollow community.
The Tongass Narrows is the lifeblood of our community. It is our highway; almost all of the goods we use come by barge. Fuel, food, clothing and building materials all travel this road. It is our main street, or at least it should be. We don't need to bridge it or fill it in; we need to learn to use it to our advantage. We need to lobby for a large chunk of our bridge money and build the infrastructure that will make Ketchikan attractive to business and to folks that have the means to build here.
Patrick Jirschele
Pennock Island, AK - USA



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