PIA’s proposed mile long pedestrian trail in Petersburg doesn’t seem likely anymore, at least for the time being. But there are a few other shorter trails now being proposed by the town’s tribe. KFSK’s Angela Denning has more:
Building and maintaining trails is part of Petersburg Indian Association’s long term transportation plan. It helps secure employment for tribal members.
The proposed trail in question would have linked Odin Street to Haugen Drive. It would have connected Severson and Lumber Street neighborhoods to the Post Office by bypassing the downtown area.
Susan Harai, the engineer and land surveyor for PIA, spoke at the last borough Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. She told the commission that after taking in the details of the land where the trail would go it became clear that there were problems.
“We have found that it’s not possible at this time,” Harai said.
She said the main problem was the airport boundary behind the borough’s shop on Second Street.
“It’s so close that there’s not enough distance, the trail would actually be running along the edge of the shop there,” Harai said.
That is unless PIA could get a 200 foot easement on the airport boundary.
“If we did get an easement and could move it far away from existing residences then it would be something that I think would be very beneficial to the people on the other side of town,” Harai said. “But at this point, it’s not a possibility. I mean we have to pursue that with the State of Alaska.”
Harai said when she walked the proposed trail it was too close not only to the borough’s shop but also residences. And that was a sticking point for some opponents of the trail.
Aaron Phillips wrote a letter to the borough opposing the trail because it would go along his property that he plans to build on. He said he would lose privacy and safety if the trail was built.
Alice and Thomas Cumps live on the end of Noseeum Street.
“We do see a lot of foot traffic late at night and early in the morning that we don’t like to see,” Alice Cumps said. “And so that’s just a concern for us that we might see more of it.”
The foot traffic concern was echoed by resident Denise Loucks.
But commissioners also heard from residents who supported PIA building the trail.
“I’m very supportive of having trails built among our neighborhood roads to open opportunities for families, kids, older people to walk safely,” said Kathryn Schneider. “This to me makes sense to build this trail assuming there’s support from the people in the neighborhoods.”
Speaking to the commission by phone, Malena Marvin said her neighbors on Lumber Street have supported a trail in the area for a long time even before PIA proposed one.
“There’s so many of us who have been wanting that for so long that I was wondering if we could continue discussion of that in some way and look for some problem solving here,” Marvin said.
Harai asked the public to consider a smaller trail as an alternative, 1400 feet long, that would run from Noseeum to Queen Street. PIA is proposing it as a raised boardwalk over muskeg through an undeveloped right of way.
“Why that would be nice is the people from the subdivision could walk that boardwalk to Noseeum and they could make a nice little circle there back to their subdivision walking their dogs for recreation purposes or whatever,” Harai said.
She said building a raised trail is an easier process than a gravel one. There’s less permitting and the borough wouldn’t be required by the Army Corps of Engineers to dedicate other wetlands that would be displaced if the trail were gravel.
The Planning and Zoning Commission listened to the testimony. A motion to recommend the shorter trail to the borough assembly failed to pass. Commissioners said they wanted to keep the dialogue of a longer trail open and get more public comment on the shorter one.
Harai also brought up the idea of a totally separate trail near Mt. View Manor, a retirement home adjacent to the Hammer and Wikan Grocery Store. She said the trail would connect the Mt. View Manor area to the new Hungry Point Trail loop PIA is building now.
“At the top of the hill you can see directly where Mt. View Manor is,” Harai said. “The trail is about 1400 feet and it would tie in to where the gravel trail ties into Gjoa [Street]. So there’s already a trail that terminates there. The advantage of this would be, if you were in a wheelchair or a walker you could go down that trail and at the top of the knob there you can see Frederick Sound. It’s a beautiful view.”
The Planning and Zoning Commissioners were open to the idea.
Liz Cabrera, Community Development Director for the borough, said they would mail out notices to nearby neighbors of the proposed trail.
A public hearing on the issue was set for the commission’s next meeting, November 22 at 4:30 p.m.