PRAC says Fishermen’s Memorial should stay put

Alaska Commercial Fishermen's Memorial, Photo by Casey Kelly

The CBJ Parks and Recreation Advisory Board says the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial should stay where it is, while a city Assembly member says it’s not the memorial that should move, but the proposed cruise ship docks.

The PRAC was asked by the Docks and Harbors Board to weigh in on a possible location for the memorial, now that the city plans to build two new floating berths near it.

Memorial Board members say the granite wall with names of deceased fishermen should remain in its current location, but not if a dock will be in front of it. They suggest moving it to Marine Park.

Parks and Recreation Director Brent Fisher told the advisory board last night (Tuesday) he does not support the idea. He quoted from the CBJ waterfront plan, which calls Marine Park the front porch, village green, or town square for Juneau. The plan recommends redesigning the park to draw people to its core.

Fisher says the Fishermen’s Memorial was designed for its present location — a working waterfront near a fish processing company and away from downtown.

“Marine Park has been and will continue to be a venue for a wide variety of programs, many of which are not compatible with a memorial,” he says. “Examples of this include festivals, heavy metal concerts, flash mobs and parades.”

Fisher recommends a proposed CBJ park near the Douglas Bridge be designed around the Fishermen’s Memorial, but board member Melissa Museth says Gastineau Channel currents under the bridge are often too strong to safely conduct the annual Blessing of the Fleet.

Even with the proposed floating berth there’s enough room for fishing vessels to pass in front of the memorial at its present location, says CBJ Port Engineer Gary Gillette. Museth believes it could be too congested. She says the board has dismissed all other locations except Marine Park, mainly based on the needs of the ceremony held each May.

“We need to find a place where it is safe for our commercial fishermen to come in and participate with the Blessing of the Fleet like they have been doing all these years,” Museth says.

Linda Mancuso works on the waterfront as a CBJ Harbor Technician. One of her jobs is to pick up trash between Marine Park and the end of the seawalk, past the memorial. She says the two sites couldn’t be more different.

“When I walk through the memorial, people don’t throw trash there for some reason,” Mancuso told the PRAC. “There’s flowers down there right now, there’s always flowers there. There was a letter last week from a mom to her son. There’s a baby picture right now of somebody who lost their life. There’s all kinds of mementoes in there, people leave that stuff alone.”

She contrasts that with Marine Park:

“Marine Park doesn’t really belong to us anymore. It’s a drunk magnet,” Mancuso says. “I want you folks to be aware that if you move it (the memorial) down there what you’re going to have is drunks, you’re going to have people urinating, you’re going to have defecation, you’re going to have all kinds of stuff. I’m going to be picking up more empty 40s and Northern Light Canadian Blended Whiskey empty bottles than ever before.”

The Juneau Assembly will ultimately decide whether the Fishermen’s Memorial stays where it is near Taku Smokeries, or moves to another location.

Two Assembly members attended last night’s meeting. Peter Freer told the PRAC that wherever the memorial is located, the Assembly believes it must have both visibility and accessibility during the Blessing of the Fleet.

The plan for the city’s floating berth system, dubbed 16-B, states the memorial must be accommodated, though that is not defined. Assembly member Ruth Danner would shift everything up the channel toward Gold Creek.

“Can we move all of 16-B up, as far as possible, to make room for the Blessing of the Fleet to still happen there?” Danner asked.

The Docks and Harbors Board will hold another public hearing on locations for the memorial next week then make a recommendation to the Assembly.

Photo by Casey Kelly

Port Engineer Gillette says construction would begin on the first floating dock in 2013, and the second in 2014. He says the entire system would be in place at least a year before the memorial could be moved.

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