The dock and float at Papke’s Landing, 10 miles south of Petersburg was built in 1961. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg’s harbor board last week took their first look at a conceptual design for parking, dock and ramp improvements that might happen at Papke’s Landing about 10 miles south of Petersburg. The property is still owned by the state and many questions and concerns remain about how to fund upgrades or maintenance of that property. But the borough’s looking for feedback on a long-term vision for that area.

Papke’s Landing is used by remote residents for accessing homes and recreation cabins. It’s also used by boaters from Petersburg and several nearby lodges that offer sport fishing during the warmer months.

A nearby resident John Murgas stressed the importance of the site for transportation and commerce.

“It’s a deep water port,” Murgas said. “It’s very well protected from the weather and it has minimal tidal currents. Put all this together and it really makes it an ideal place for public funding from all the different programs that are available.”

Petersburg’s assembly last year agreed to spend $35,920 for conceptual drawings for Papke’s landing, along with a boat ramp on southern Mitkof Island.

Engineer Alan Murph of Harai and Associates presented the draft plan for Papke’s to the harbor board this month. The concept includes several new rock filled parking areas, new mooring float and gangway along with a new concrete launch ramp with floats. That new ramp would be just south of the existing ramp. The plans could also include a public restroom and a new harbor maintenance building.

The preliminary cost estimate for the project puts the price tag for construction around 6.4 million dollars, although it could be done in phases. Some local leaders are hoping federal infrastructure funding or some other grant money could pay for it.

Borough assembly member Dave Kensinger uses the dock to get to Petersburg from his home on neighboring Kupreanof Island. He said the dock’s in poor shape and is long overdue for upgrades.

“I think the thing that’s really changed is the amount of use,” Kensigner said. “And what I see the amount of use out there is astounding certain times of year. And it’s not people that live in the Papke’s area. Very few people in the Papke’s area tie a boat up there. Most of the people that seem to be tying boats up and leaving are from town. And the other problem we also have out there is it’s a vehicle dumping point, the parking lot out there.”

Kensinger said another change has been the amount of state and university land sold in the area and the new development that has happened. The dock at Papke’s was one of three remote docks offered by the Alaska Department of Transportation to Petersburg in 2016. The two sides did not agree on terms of that transfer but the borough assembly last year voiced interest in renewing negotiations with the DOT. There are other government agencies involved. Land on the waterfront is owned by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, while the U.S. Forest Service leases state land for the boat ramp. But the borough has purchased some parcels from the state to use for future parking.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht was concerned with taking over ownership of anything that would require a lease with the state.

“We want this resolved before taking ownership of the dock,” Giesbrecht said. “We want DOT and DNR to work together and get this resolved and say, give us the land. The borough would own the tidelands and all of that property that DNR has down there. Just got back from a conversation with them. It’s going to be tough. DOT is anxious to make this happen. DNR doesn’t want to do anything other than their current rules. So it’s likely going to go a little higher up to the governor’s office. We’ll see what we can get done.”

Local leaders in the past have also been wary about paying for maintenance of the site, with costs anticipated for snow removal, parking and permit enforcement. That’s estimated to add 100-thousand dollars or more to the harbor department’s budget.

Brandon Allison has recently purchased the Majestic Eagle Lodge, one of the nearby sport fishing operations, and thought users wouldn’t expect upgrades for free.

“I’d be open to the option of like us as the lodges or whoever over there paying a fee to be able to use that, upkeep the property over there you know for storing cars that are over there, or using the ramp, redoing a dock,” Allison said. “It’s pivotal to our lifestyle out there for sure.”

Petersburg’s harbor department currently doesn’t have the money to build improvements at Papke’s or maintain an additional facility. Its reserves are earmarked for a harbor dredging project planned for this year and leaders are also interested in exploring the potential for a new harbor at Scow Bay.

Harbor board chair Bob Martin called the concept for Papke’s a good start.

“But I’m sure the public has all kinds of ideas,” Martin added. “We haven’t even started on that process yet. But I think it’s a great idea of what, one vision of what could happen,” he said.

If the borough can overcome the property ownership hurdle, it would still have to pay for full engineering and design work before it would be ready to build.

The board voted to support the concept of upgrading Papke’s while seeking public input on the drawings. Borough assembly members this month also encouraged users to give feedback to them or the board.

The conceptual plan is posted on the borough’s website.