Thursday, September 29, 2011

Project Kick-Off

On September 21 and 22 members of the Corvus design team arrived in Skagway to inventory the Pullen Creek corridor, host a public meeting and meet with various stakeholders. This was our first opportunity to listen to the concerns and opportunities presented by the community. The information gathered during these two days will be the foundation of design work than will start in October. Below is a summary of what we heard at the meetings, and our own professional observations. We welcome all and any comments related to the project and these can be submitted by clicking the 'comment' link at the bottom of any of these posts.

Pullen Creek Site Visit


(Above: the team stops along the existing trails to discuss current uses, opportunities and constraints.)
(Above: view of Pullen Creek from Congress Way culvert.)

·         Initial thoughts and opportunities were discussed as we walked along the corridor and became familiar with the character and places of interest along it.
·         We walked from the mouth of the creek up to the where it runs near the Museum (the end of the scope for this project).
·         We walked the corridor a second time in the afternoon and with a GPS unit, recorded actual locations for/of
o   Existing conditions of habitat, trail conditions, interpretation themes, private and public property extents, concerns and successes, etc.
o   possible habitat improvements
o   possible pedestrian/pathway/user improvements
o   (see graphic for notes specific to areas along the corridor)
·         General Habitat notes:
o   There is significant erosion occurring where trail users/tourist like to currently walk next to the creek or Pullen Pond for salmon viewing opportunities.  The trails and user areas (around the shelter) are being ‘loved to death’.
o   The locations provided for salmon viewing are often too small (bridges) to accommodate the many tourists and users therefore end up trampling important habitat.
o   While there is enthusiastic interest in spawning salmon, there is general misunderstanding in the tourist community of the salmon lifecycle within the creek
o   There were extensive habitat improvements recently made to the Pullen Pond area to allow salmon to pass through the culverts under Congress Way and provide more fish-viewing and fishing opportunities north of Congress Way, while preventing erosion.
·         General Pedestrian User/Trail conditions:
o   There are conflicts with pedestrians using the existing creek trail system with vehicles and railroad tracks and cars, particularly at the Congress Way intersection and the Dewey Lakes Trailhead.
o   Guardrails have been used in many locations to keep trail users on the trail and prevent them from trying to touch or pick up fish.

Meetings with Public and Steering Committee

What we heard:

1)      Broadway Businesses:  During the discussions of improvements for this area, it was noted that perspective of business owners along Broadway should remain a focus while considering improvements to the Pullen Creek corridor.
2)      Existing conditions and Uses:
a)      The bridge at the temporary weir and the green bridge at the Dewey Lakes Trailhead are great spots for fish viewing. Neither is wide enough to accommodate fish viewers and trail users who just need to cross the creek.
b)      Privacy is often an issue; tourists using the trail often find themselves close to or on public property without knowing it or respecting boundaries.
c)       Safety needs to be addressed
i)        Conflicts between trail users, vehicles, and the railroad are especially common at the Congress Way crossing and at the Dewey Lakes Trailhead
d)      Fishing isn’t a huge draw for people, although it is enjoyable.  Fish cleaning isn’t a problem either, there aren’t enough numbers of fish being caught that a cleaning station is needed.
i)        The winning King Salmon in the derby was 20lbs with a prize of $2500
3)      The Gateway sidewalk is a project in the process of developing a new pedestrian sidewalk/route from the cruiseships to lead visitors into the downtown.  Preliminary drawings for this work should be available.  The team will look into finding them.
4)      Concern regarding payment for development, construction and maintenance was discussed at length. 
a)      After design, it is intended that TIWC will research funding opportunities and maintenance agreements.
i)        RTCA (Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance) is on board, has selected this project to assist in finding funding
ii)       NPS may have ability to find additional funding for this if it was widely supported by the community. 
iv)     USFWS is in support of this project and has funding opportunities available for habitat protection and restoration opportunities
v)      Creating connections between other nodes in the community (schools, playgrounds, museum) may also help find a variety of other funds
vi)     It was recommended that when the suggested improvements are designed based on community input, finding letters of support or endorsement can help get funding
b)      Keep maintenance as low as possible
c)       It is intended that this project will be phased as funding and maintenance agreements become available.
d)      It was noted that MOS does not currently have enough funds to maintain their properties, trails, and landscape as is.  Head tax money is already all accounted for, none will be available for maintenance of these improvements.
e)      Options for maintenance and funding will be researched (including ‘adopt-a-trail’ agreements, etc.)
f)       Within the improvements on the list for MOS, this project is a lower priority.
5)      Area Specific Notes
a)      Lawn area at the lower portion of Pullen Creek was discussed at length.
i)        The majority of the property is MOS.
ii)       Long term ideas for development of this area at one point may have included industrial or hatchery development.  There is nothing in the works for this, but should be considered that this property may prove to be ideal for later development. It was suggested to keep the focus on the south side of the creek, as future development wouldn’t have the same impact on that side.
iii)     The potential for a hatchery development in this area is desired, although studies of the creek show water temperature to be too cold in this area for a successful hatchery.
iv)     It was noted that the north side of the creek in this area has a constant flow of users.  The south side also has a lot of users who are going between the ferry terminal and the railroad dock.
v)      Several crossing points would be beneficial to allow trail users to cross over from the north to the south side more easily when trying to get to the SeaWalk area.
vi)     The Pullen Creek project should consider that Skagway believes tourism and industry need to coexist, and generally do currently in the city.  Industry generally stays in the west part of town and tourism stays in the east.
vii)   Skagway will continue to develop industry as is possible to create jobs and keep their annual population.
viii)  A few times a year, tent camping and parking are allowed in the lawn area when large events occur.
b)      North of Congress Way
i)        Trail is very connected with the railroad in this area.
ii)       It is preferred to keep the trail on MOS property, if possible
iii)     The existing trail veers off from the creek prior to the Alaska Power and Telephone Company (AP&T) plant. 
iv)     It has the potential to join in with the Moore House (NPS) and connect trail users with Skagway’s history and reconnect them back with the business district
(1)    Compliance with NPS standards and MOS Historic District standards in this area is necessary; Mike and Dave with NPS support the idea of having a trail connect with the Moore House and will help as needed to ensure NPS requirements are met.
(2)    The Fence on the Moore House property is considered a historic structure and cannot be modified
(3)    Bench area at street is not considered historic and could be modified
(4)    Existing trail/foot path on south side of NPS employee housing is not actually on NPS property, route will need to be evaluated in this area.
v)      Playground/Museum area
(1)    Lots of kids and visitors use the playground in this area, and like to play in the creek and watch fish.
(2)    MOS is trying to maintain good visibility in this area, for safety
(3)    Old Rail Car that sits in the woods by the Museum belongs to the Museum; it is desired to move it to a move visible location, possibly at the end of the parking lot
6)      Desired character for Pullen Creek Improvements
a)      Keep it natural, with well-defined edges
b)      Asphalt is generally not desired.  It doesn’t match the character of the area.
c)       No lighting is desired
d)      8’ wide sounded about adequate, to accommodate the variety of users
e)      It should be accessible for all users
7)      Potential Opportunities:
a)      Many interpretive Opportunities exist within the Pullen Creek corridor
i)        History Skagway and the goldrush
ii)       Energy and Hydro – AP&T plant diverts water from upper lakes to generate power; some of their equipment is relatively old and historically significant
iii)     Salmon Spawning
b)      Improve Signage and Wayfinding along the Pullen Creek corridor
i)        Can help direct tourists of how to return to the dock
ii)       Provide information on MOS rules and ADFG regulations (keeping off private property, don’t touch fish, etc.)
c)       Safety Improvements
i)        Opportunity to provide guidance for trail users of all ages and abilities along railroad corridor, at road crossings, and potential private property hazards.
d)      Habitat restoration/rehabilitation
i)        USFWS, AKSSF, NMFS – these agencies have funding available for habitat restoration projects
8)      Partnership - In summary, the team wants to develop a partnership with all the agencies and groups involved, including the NPS, USFWS, the White Pass Railroad, AP&T, MOS, and landowners to contribute to the process of this project.  What happens with this project will be up to the community.
a)      The team will meet with all possible partners to get their input on what is possible with them, or what is desired.  Make sure they get a chance to discuss their ideas and concerns with improvements within the corridor.
b)      RR – Congress Way and north, the trail is adjacent to the rail corridor
c)       AP&T – a path runs along an AP&T easement north of Congress Way, there are numerous interpretive opportunities with the AP&T plant
d)      USFWS – has done significant work around the Congress Way crossing to improve salmon habitat to date and is interested in helping restore more of the creek.
e)      NPS – supports the project and acknowledges that it offers significant opportunities to tie the tourism activities along the creek in with the NPS Moore House and other historic activities in downtown Skagway.
f)       There is no desire to force this project upon anyone or create a route where one is not wanted.

Meeting with NPS to discuss Moore House coordination



The team met with NPS staff to discuss possible options for connection to the Pullen Creek StreamWalk project.

·         The structures on the property cannot be modified, but a trail can run through the property and out the north east side. 
·         The best option seems to be to have a potential trail come up to the fence opening at the front of the property and run along the boardwalk decking to the bench area.  At this point the trail can continue through the property to the northeast side either along the existing decking or to the bench area and then between the coldhouse and the Moore House. 
·         There is not enough room in the street to have the trail run outside the property fence.
·         It was noted that the coldhouse will be undergoing an archaeological dig within the next year, but could lend itself well to more historic interpretation for Stream Walk users.
·         While the decking cannot be modified significantly to match the character of a StreamWalk, the NPS is open to discreet indications that the route of the Streamwalk is different than the rest of the boardwalk on site, whether that is small brass icons in the decking or otherwise, that would have to be agreed upon.
·         At the northeast side of the property, the trail would have to extend through the parcel that has the NPS employee housing.  Whether this trail segment would run on the west or east side of the employee housing building would be up to the NPS.  

Summary Meeting with the Steering Committee


The team summarized what they heard the night before (listed above).  Click here for a full graphic of the summary of notes from the meetings and inventory and analysis.
The Steering Committee requested that all notes and meeting summaries be distributed.
The team briefly discussed their plans and next steps which included:
1)      Meeting with the railroad to discuss their opinions/concerns later in the day
2)      Summarize the information we have gathered and maintain it on a website/blog for continued communication with the community about the project.
3)      Will begin looking at possible options for a StreamWalk
4)      Would like the Steering Committee to give us priorities
5)      Set up the next team meeting in Skagway to occur around the next Assembly meeting
a.       If there are other agencies that would be good to involve, it would be good to present it to them as well and keep them informed.

Meeting with White Pass and Yukon Route



1)      White Pass’ areas of concern for the Pullen Creek StreamWalk include:
a)      Congress Way Crossing
i)        They have had issues with tourists stacking up at this location when trains are moving through, not enough room for hundreds of people to safely line up and watch fish
ii)       The improvements in this area, including the split rail fence, really help with this concern
iii)     This fence needs to stay as is and where it is.  There is no flexibility on relocating this fence
b)      Trailhead to Dewey Lakes
i)        They have tried to slow hikers and dog walkers down in this area, people tend to run from one side to the other very quickly
c)       Crossing at Broadway
2)      Are there plans to add a second track in the StreamWalk corridor?
a)      Possibly if the ore port does go through, but it wouldn’t affect this project.
3)      The fenced off portion of the creek at the Dock area is on railroad property, are they opposed to thinning vegetation in this area? 
a)      Not opposed to thinning of vegetation if it is done safely and guardrails are maintained (it is a steep drop)
b)      The fish ladder is an area they are currently looking into for maintenance
4)      Visibility along the tracks
a)      It is very important that their conductors have good visibility along the tracks for long distances.
b)      Pruning needs to be done along the existing fishing rock areas north of Congress Way
5)      Other notes
a)      They typically need 50’ from the center line of the tracks on either side, clear
6)      Proposed ideas to make Pullen Creek StreamWalk and Railroad have more safe relationship
a)      More clearly define where tourists need to cross at Congress Way.
i)        Keep crosswalks all the same color
ii)       Widen corner area and reduce planter area at the SW of the intersection to allow queing before crossing to the north of Congress Way
iii)     Provide plantings or focus point on NW corner to draw pedestrians across intersection from SW corner.
iv)     Discourage crossing between SE and NE corners
b)      Slow trail users down and keep pets on leashes at the Dewey Lake Trailhead
i)        Include a raised boardwalk at the Dewey Lake Trail crossing
ii)       Suggestion was made to include a self-closing gate that makes people aware they are crossing tracks and need to be aware
c)       For all proposed improvements in these areas, the design team will include White Pass in the discussion.
7)      Jaime Bricker agreed to serve as White Pass’ point of contact with the team and will likely sit on the Steering Committee as well to continue to provide representation for White Pass

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