Hoonah taps federal funds to ease cruise visitor congestion

The planned walkway would extend over an existing causeway to Pitt Island, shown on the right in this photo from May 2019 (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

Hoonah is planning a $4.77 million pedestrian project to improve the walkability of its harbor area and make it possible to walk to the community’s cemetery on Pitt Island.

The Southeast community of about 800 people is expected to receive around 267,000 passengers off cruise ships this season. And Hoonah’s Icy Strait Point is building a second cruise dock in anticipation of more than 400,000 visitors projected next year.

“It can be pretty overwhelming,” Hoonah City Manager Dennis Gray Jr. said. “The harbor definitely has people all over the road because there’s no sidewalk for them to be on – and so they end up in the middle of the road and things get pretty tight down there.”

State transportation officials have been working with the city to design a pedestrian seawalk that would serve visitors and residents alike.

“The improved sidewalk access will also allow for disabled tourists to gain access to a scenic walkway,” wrote state transportation planner Marcheta Moulton in an email to CoastAlaska. “That will give them views the harbor, Port Frederick and wildlife. This will help alleviate congestion in the town core.”

She added that a formal agreement is expected to be signed to approve the funding package.

Only a preliminary sketch for our project has been completed to date. (Courtesy of City of Hoonah)

The city is putting up about $439,000 with federal transportation dollars making up the rest of the multi-million dollar project.

The pedestrian walkway will also extend to the community’s cemetery on Pitt Island. That’ll allow community members to walk to funerals and grave sites.

“Our primary cemetery is at Pitt Island and getting access to it is only by skiff and makes things difficult,” Gray said.

Officials hope to break ground on the harbor sidewalk this summer. The portion running over an existing causeway to Pitt Island would be built next year. The entire walkway will extend nearly a mile.

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