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Many views about moving fishermen's memorial

Relatives and friends of those memorialized expressed hurt, anger over proposal

Posted: May 25, 2011 - 9:27pm

Some angry families and friends of those memorialized on the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial told public officials and the memorial’s directors that it is unacceptable to move what they consider a sacred site to make way for new cruise ship docks.

Others, though not enthused about the move, suggested Marine Park might be an option to keep the memorial near the water and part of the annual Blessing of the Fleet.

Plans for new two cruise docks on the waterfront to serve large ships ran headlong Wednesday into the pride generations of local fishing families have in their livelihood, and the memories of those who lost their lives on the water.

The meeting, run by city Port Engineer Gary Gillette, was called to gather input about four proposed alternative sites for the memorial. The Assembly approved the idea of building new docks to accommodate newer and larger ships, and made it a condition that the Docks and Harbors Department work with the memorial’s board to see whether the project would impact the memorial so much it had to be moved.

The new docks would cut the memorial off from the stretch of water used by boats during the annual Blessing of the Fleet and the laying of a memorial wreath for those lost at sea.

Gillette laid out alternative sites for the memorial, which is the center of the annual blessing ceremony. The options include leaving it where it is, moving it south along the sea walk, placement in Marine Park or placement at Norway Point near the Juneau Yacht Club.

The memorial was built in the 1990s after years of fundraising and includes names of people lost at sea going back decades before construction.

“Since then, the tourist industry has grown significantly in Juneau,” said memorial board member Bruce Weyhrauch while giving a brief history of the memorial. The area is now overtaken by the cruise ship industry, Weyhrauch said.

Weyhrauch said one sees flowers left there the year ‘round.

“That’s why this is such a sensitive issue,’ he said. “For many people, moving that memorial is like digging up a graveyard.”

The best alternative to some families and friends of those memorialized was for the city to reconsider its plans to build the two floating docks there between 2014 and 2015, and relocate them to another part of the waterfront.

One woman who has fought the idea since it was proposed used to visit the memorial with her husband when he paid respect to lost fishermen. In 2006, Rick Nebert was himself lost at sea, and widow Jennifer Nebert says the memorial is the only grave her children Derick and Ericka have to visit.

“That’s actually a place that he has gone to pay respects to his friends,” said Nebert of her husband. Her solution is to not move the memorial, even if that means the city must reconsider its plans for mega-docks. “It ought to stay as it is,” she said.

She said the meeting gave her a little hope that the city might be open to negotiation.

Others who opposed the relocation said they felt hurt as well as angry that the contributions of the fishing industry seem to have become marginalized.

“I feel like no one wants us,” said Linnea Osborne, who runs the fishing vessel Mongoose with her husband and is on the memorial’s board of directors. She agreed with Nebert’s comments and said she was “sort of appalled” at the way the city has proceeded toward moving the monument.

”This whole process has made me feel like roadkill,” she told the more than 20 people in attendance.

Others said generations of hard work and sacrifice are being trivialized.

“This isn’t feeling very good. We have now stepped back and are fourth or fifth-class citizens,” said Jeri Museth-Reddekopp, who questioned whether the city would simply push the memorial further from public sight in a few years if the memorial gets in the way of another money-making venture.

“Am I happy about any of this? I am not.” She said a lot of those flowers people see at the memorial are ones she has brought.

Melissa Museth tearfully recalled the names of some lost at sea, including family members, and recalled the dedication of families who worked the fishing boats since before Alaska was a state. She opposes the move.

“If the memorial has to be moved my vote also is for Marine Park,” she said. “But I sure as heck don’t want to see that memorial moved again.”

• Contact Managing Editor John R. Moses at 523-2265 or at john.moses@juneauempire.com.

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