City decides to keep leasing popular Juneau park

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Kids play on the outdated slide at Cathedral Park at 5th & Gold in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The City and Borough of Juneau will continue to lease Cathedral Park from the city’s downtown Catholic parish for at least another year.

The city pays the parish $800 a year for the small parcel at the corner of 5th and Gold. It also pays for park maintenance.

CBJ Parks Superintendent George Schaaf says funding for the lease was accidentally removed from the city budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It was restored after neighbors expressed concern that the church would pave over the park to expand its parking lot.

Schaaf says there’s still a possibility the lease will be terminated next year, but only after talking to the church and the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

“One of the things we’re looking at is trying to bring all of our playgrounds up to standard,” says Schaaf. “And the slide here and the retaining walls in this park currently don’t meet national standards for playgrounds and so that’s going to be a pretty significant expense to fix that.”

Members of Juneau’s Downtown Neighborhood Association met with Schaaf at the park on Monday. Sam Skaggs says it was one of the few play areas close enough for his kids to walk to while growing up downtown.

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Downtown resident Sam Skaggs addresses a crowd at Cathedral Park Monday night. Juneau's Downtown Neighborhood Association is looking for a long-term solution to keep the park open. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

“When they took the playground equipment out of that park, my daughter wrote her first letter to the editor at age five in protest,” Skaggs says. “It’s just all part of the overall quality. I think you need every little niche like that. It’s like an ecosystem. If you make everything one monoculture then you don’t have much diversity and it’s not as enjoyable.”

The group discussed various options to help the city buy the property, including forming a Juneau Parks Foundation that could secure grant funding for city parks projects.

Father Pat Casey of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary says the church is looking at expanding its parking lot. But there’s no plan to do anything to the park at this point. He says it may be used to stage construction equipment for an extensive remodel of the church, but that’s at least three years away.

Casey says the Parish Council plans to meet with the neighborhood association and city officials over the next year to discuss the future of the park.