Assembly settles fishermen’s memorial issue

The Alaska Commercial Fishermen's Memorial in Juneau is staying put. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO).

The location of the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial has been laid to rest by the Juneau Assembly.

The panel Monday determined the memorial should stay where it is on Juneau’s working waterfront, even though a floating cruise ship berth will be built in front of it in the next couple of years.

The memorial board has asked that the granite wall with names of deceased fishermen be moved to Marine Park. Board members have said the Blessing of the Fleet won’t be the same because fishing boats won’t be able to get close enough to the memorial and people on shore.

The question has gone before the Docks and Harbors Board and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. While they recommended the memorial stay where it is, they said Marine Park should be an option because the park will be redesigned over the next year.

The Assembly was to make the final decision on the memorial. Mayor Bruce Botelho made it clear a decision needs to be made.

“It’s important that we bring some finality to this,” Botelho said.

Port Engineer Gary Gillette said fishing vessels will be able to pass in front of the memorial at its present location. He told the Assembly the closest boats can get now during the ceremony is 75 to 80 feet.

Though the actual cost of a move isn’t known, the city has set aside $2 million for the relocation. Botelho said that money can be better spent.

“There are going to be ways of celebrating even with the new configuration,” Botelho said. “Twenty, 30, 40 years from now (this issue) will not seem like it’s a big deal. There will be ways to truly be able to integrate the memorial with the new waterfront.”

Deputy mayor Merrill Sanford said the Assembly shouldn’t go against the memorial board’s wishes.

“Right now the memorial committee itself has delved into this in great depth and this is their preferred site if we’re building 16-B. So I would have to vote no on this proposal,” Sanford said.

The Assembly last year approved construction of the floating berth system, called Concept 16-B.

Since then, the Docks and Harbors Department has identified several sites for relocating the memorial as well as the no-move option. The memorial board dismissed all but Marine Park, mainly based on the needs of the annual ceremony.

On a vote of six to three the Assembly said the fishermen’s memorial will stay where it is. Those voting for the motion were Mayor Botelho, Mary Becker, Karen Crane, Johan Dybdahl, Malcolm Menzies, and David Stone. Sanford, Ruth Danner, and Peter Freer voted against.

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