Local News

Petersburg assembly discusses remote boat launch ramps

Petersburg will ask the Alaska Mental Health Trust to wait on the sale of some property at Papke’s Landing, 10 miles south of town. Officials are hoping the land could be used for parking at the public dock and boat ramp. Meanwhile, the borough assembly this week also heard that another boat ramp on the southern end of the island might not be the place for a new ferry to load and unload passengers next year.

The land at Papke’s is part of a statewide sale by the Mental Health Trust land office. That office is already accepting sealed bids through October 24th. The three lots total just over an acre and a half are along the road right across from the boat ramp at Papke’s.
Assembly member Bob Lynn wanted to ask Mental Health to hold off on the sale. “When you look at those in the long term they probably should be in, for the public interest. They should be parking, they should be something other than having us go back and spend a lot of money. I’m trying to acquire those particular parcels. That area’s going to be a center for public use for a long time in my opinion.”

Lynn hoped to be able to acquire the property through the land selection process for the new Petersburg borough or a land swap with Mental Health.

Assembly members asked borough manager Steve Giesbrecht about the chances of Mental Health postponing the sale of the land and agreeing to swap with Petersburg. “The land swap piece I think is even less likely just because Mental Health doesn’t like, through the borough selection process. We can’t select their land,” Giesbrecht said. “So I think that would be a lot harder. Getting Mental Health to say, the trust to say we’ll not sell those three lots under the assumption that the borough may come back later and buy those three lots is probably more likely.”

Giesbrecht noted that the borough already started the formal process of purchasing the property but did not follow through on the purchase. “There’s a paperwork process that went through. They came back and said OK you’re approved, now the borough assembly has to pay to have it appraised. And as I understood it, what that meant was once the appraisal came in, the borough would have to agree to pay 10 percent above appraised value and we would have, the borough would have a very limited time to close the deal or the whole thing would expire. I believe the time was like 30 days.”

Papke’s Landing is used by borough residents accessing remote homes in the area, fishing boats and recreational boaters. Besides the land owned by Mental Health, the dock and boat launch ramp are owned by the state Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources.

The borough is waiting for an offer from the state Department of Transportation on the transfer of three remote docks, including Papkes. However, mayor Mark Jensen says DOT is waiting for the outcome of a Juneau’s legal challenge to Petersburg’s borough boundaries.

Assembly member John Havrilek did not want to start the clock on a land purchase before hearing from about the dock and boat ramp. “You know and I’m not opposed, this property is important to the area for our use of it. But one I’m not ready to make that kind of purchase as an assembly person for the city, or the borough, not knowing, cause there’s still a couple other parties we have to deal with at Papkes.”

Other assembly members thought it would not hurt to send a letter and ask Mental Health to delay the sale. The vote was unanimous to do that.

In other borough land issues involving the state, the assembly is hoping a proposed ferry based in Coffman Cove will find an alternative to the Banana Point boat launch ramp on southern Mitkof Island. That’s after local residents voiced concerns about potential conflicts with other ramp users and the limits of tides on that ramp.

The Rainforest Islands Ferry wants to begin service between Coffman Cove, Wrangell and southern Mitkof next year. The independent ferry authority this summer sought support from the Petersburg assembly for using the Banana Point boat ramp or the state’s South Mitkof ferry terminal nearby. Petersburg officials earlier this month agreed to send a letter of support. However, assembly member Havrilek wanted to make a change to that letter. “It seems Banana Point would not only be a disruption for sports fisherman in town and other people that use that area and might damage it but also would probably cause problems for the proposed ferry service.”

Havrilek proposed that the borough’s letter supporting the new ferry service should encourage the use of Olsen’s log dump or the South Mitkof Ferry terminal as a docking site.

The Rainforest Ferry’s Kent Miller met with local residents Monday night and heard concerns about using Banana Point. Other ramp users thought there would be conflicts with people launching boats to go fishing, and thought the ferry would not be able to load and unload passengers at low tide there.

Assembly members voted to make that change to a letter that will go to the departments of transportation and natural resources, on behalf of the new ferry service.

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