Docks and Harbors can’t agree on memorial move

Alaska Commercial Fishermen's Memorial. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

On Monday, the Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole is scheduled to discuss relocating the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial to Marine Park. But it will do so without a recommendation from the city’s Docks and Harbors Board.

When the assembly approved a floating cruise ship berth to be built in front of the memorial, it told the Docks and Harbors Board to work with the memorial’s board of directors, and if necessary recommend a new location.

The memorial board believes the monument should be left where it is – near Taku Smokeries on the downtown waterfront – but not with a dock there. The memorial board is concerned with how the floating berth might impact the annual Blessing of the Fleet, as well as the view of the water from the memorial. If the dock is built, the memorial board says it should go to Marine Park.

Last night (Thursday) the Docks and Harbors Board considered two completely different options for making a recommendation, but couldn’t pass either one and had to table the issue.

Chairman Kevin Jardell argued that the assembly directed the board to make a recommendation on a “mutually acceptable location,” and in his eyes Marine Park meets that definition.

“From a Docks and Harbors Board member’s perspective, it would be acceptable to me if they put it in Douglas,” said Jardell. “If they move it to Parks and Rec’s park, it really doesn’t impact me. I may have personal beliefs that it shouldn’t move, but from our perspective it’s acceptable to move it outside of our bailiwick, and if there’s only one that’s acceptable to the fishermen’s memorial, we wind up with only one mutually acceptable place.”

Jardell read from a lengthy letter, which he proposed sending to the assembly as the board’s recommendation. While it said Docks and Harbors finds Marine Park acceptable, it also encouraged the assembly and memorial board to give the current location a try with the cruise ship dock in place before ultimately deciding to move the memorial.

Earlier this month the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee unanimously passed a recommendation, saying the memorial should stay where it is until a plan is developed for Marine Park.

Jardell’s recommendation failed to get the five votes it needed to pass the Docks and Harbors Board. With three members absent, the vote was 4-2.

Board member Eric Kueffner was one of the no votes. He offered his own recommendation that the memorial stay where it is.

“For the very limited impact that this cruise ship construction would have on the memorial, it’s really not worth the trauma that it would cause to all the people who are so invested in it to try and move it anywhere,” Kueffner said. “Second of course is the cost of this, which we don’t really know the cost, but it strikes me that there’s no particular reason to do anything about it now. As three or four people testified tonight, we don’t have to do anything now.”

But Kueffner was the only board member to vote in favor of his recommendation, which failed 5-1.

The issue was tabled until the board’s next meeting, even though the assembly is scheduled to discuss the matter on Monday. Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford was at last night’s meeting, as was the assembly’s Docks and Harbors liaison Ruth Danner. Sanford said it’s possible the Committee of the Whole will still make a recommendation to the full assembly on Monday.