The Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial board has stated its position on moving the memorial: don’t build the cruise ship docks in front of the memorial, or, if the docks must be built there, relocate the memorial to Marine Park.
The board took public comment, both at a public meeting held by Docks and Harbors and in written letters.
“The board’s first preference is that dock 16B not be constructed in front of the memorial,” the letter states. “If 16B is constructed in front of the memorial, the board’s preference is that the memorial be relocated so that it continues to have open access to the water, is downtown, and can be visited and viewed by fishermen, Juneau citizens, and visitors. Among the alternative locations for the memorial, the board’s first preference is the location along the waterfront at Marine Park, which should include a full view plain of Gastineau Channel, a tideland easement, and an easement offshore to preserve open access between the water and the Memorial for the annual Blessing of the Fleet and Dedication of Names.”
The second “if it has to move” option is to put it between the Intermediate Vessel Float and the AJ Dock — “but only if there is a guarantee that no future dock construction at that location will interfere with open access between the Memorial and Gastineau Channel. The other options posed by the City were unacceptable to the board because of geographic, navigation, logistical, or isolation problems and limitations.”
The board received two written comments. One said to leave the memorial where it is and wanted 16B to not encroach. The other was from Chip Thoma, with Responsible Cruising in Alaska.
Thoma suggested that instead of spending $2 million in relocating the memorial, it should consider a moveable memorial.
“My proposal is simple — recreate the Juneau Fishermen’s memorial on portable and durable signage that can be updated yearly with names and used in a number of local ceremonies,” Thoma stated in his letter. “For example, the “Moving Wall” of the Vietnam Memorial successfully recreated that DC monument, which travels to 25 communities each year, spending four days in each one. Juneau can make a similar gesture with a portable Fishermen’s Memorial, used for the Blessing of the Fleet in May and for any other event, such as the 4th of July parade. I believe this portable solution for the monument can result in saving millions and could actually increase the profile and use of the present monument location.”
The board’s letter touched on Thoma’s suggestion, but leaned away from that idea. It said the suggestion creates more problems than it would solve.
“Leaving the memorial where it is after 16B is constructed would divorce the Blessing from the Dedication of Names,” the board wrote. “Instead of one location for what is now a single event, the Blessing and Dedication would be separated physically, spatially, and emotionally. The Blessing would have to take place on one of 16B’s docks with separate speakers, clergy, flowers, participants, and infrastructure temporarily located on one of 16B’s docks. The time and distance between that event and the Dedication would mean the Dedication would occur separately from the Blessing.”
It also shied away from the suggestion because it had a lot of unanswered questions about where the moveable memorial would be stored, who would pay to maintain it, who would be in charge of moving it, where the Blessing would be, and other related questions.
In the letter’s footnotes, it states a memorial like that would be hard to maintain and coordinate in a community this size.
“A mobile fishermen’s memorial would be extremely difficult to model on that concept because, based on information from the mobile memorial’s website, it must be operated, maintained, and funded by many volunteers, and requires a substantial amount of planning and preparation and ‘countless other tasks,’” the letter states. “The Fishermen’s Memorial does not have a similar kind of volunteer or financial base to maintain and implement a similar mobile memorial.”
In closing, the letter strongly emphasized the importance and meaning of the memorial.
“The board is cognizant of the emotional attachment that many, including the board, has to the memorial’s present location,” it states. “The board warned from the outset that 16B would create many problems, and that moving the memorial is not something that the board or many others wanted to do. The board indicated that some names on the memorial have no other tangible expression of a valuable life because those individuals were lost at sea. Thus, the board has been sensitive to the concern that the board initially raised that moving the Memorial would be akin to moving a graveyard, with all the attendant emotional upheaval and angst associated with that kind of an action.”
The letter is signed by board members Bruce Weyhrauch, Ted Merrell, Bob Millard, Linnea Osborne, Tom Gemmell, Melissa Museth and Tisa Becker.
Docks and Harbors Port Engineer Gary Gillette said the letter will be addressed by the Docks and Harbors Capital Improvement Project Committee at its July 21 meeting. Gillette said Parks and Recreation is in the planning phase of Marine Park and he will have to research the feasibility of moving the memorial to either location and work with the departments involved so that the committee has enough information to move forward.
“Now it’s up to the board to consider what the next best option is,” Gillette said.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org