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Park plans win support at Assembly committees

Resolutions for OHV park, under-bridge park forwarded on

Posted: August 21, 2012 - 12:03am

Two Parks and Recreation projects received the backing of City and Borough of Juneau Assembly standing committees Monday, getting unanimous approval for their requests to submit resolutions of support to the full Assembly.

The Public Works and Facilities Committee was receptive to the acting director of the Engineering Department’s request that the Assembly signal support for an application to the National Forest Service for a “technical assistance grant” that would benefit a proposed off-highway vehicle park near Bridget Cove.

“What this will do is allow the National Park Service and its partner agencies, and in this particular case, the National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Coalition … to come in and help us with the public process of vetting this system and also the technical design portion of this,” Bohan explained.

Bohan added, “What we would like is a resolution of support from the full Assembly in order to help our chances with this assistance.”

Assemblymember Ruth Danner responded favorably.

“I’m pleased to see that this kind of expertise is out there, and I wholeheartedly support the request for a resolution,” said Danner.

Bohan also told Assemblymember Karen Crane that Parks and Recreation has reached out to user groups to request their own letters of support.

On a motion by Crane, the committee unanimously approved forwarding the matter to the full Assembly.

Docks and Harbors’ proposal for a Juneau Maritime Center underneath the Juneau-Douglas Bridge, near the site of the former Public Works Department building, received more mixed reviews from the Lands Committee Monday afternoon.

Development of the site has been a collaborative effort between Docks and Harbors and Parks and Recreation, as well as with Engineering, according to Port Engineer Gary Gillette.

“We have worked … with Parks and Recreation and Engineering on this for some time now,” Gillette said. “Docks and Harbors’ interest is the Maritime Center. Parks and Recreation’s interest is the park.”

“We have been working side-by-side on this project,” agreed Brent Fischer, Parks and Recreation’s director.

The Maritime Center, as currently envisioned, would provide office space for Docks and Harbors and the Marine Exchange of Alaska, as well as public restrooms and an interpretive exhibit on the ground floor. It would share the site with a new park, as well as with the Whale Project’s anticipated bronze whale sculpture.

Nathan Bishop, the committee’s Planning Commission liaison, indicated he is leery of putting an “office building” at the scenic waterfront site.

“To me, it has the feeling of an office building with a large foyer,” said Bishop. “I don’t see any anchor that holds people to the space. … I don’t see the mixed uses that the long-range plan designates.”

Gillette compared the plan to developments he said he has seen in Seattle, responding, “I don’t think that it’s totally inappropriate to have offices there.”

The under-bridge site development is, for now, a plan that lacks key funding, as Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee liaison Jeff Wilson pointed out.

“There’s no funding for a park right now, much less a building,” said Wilson.

Assemblywoman Mary Becker, who chairs the committee, offered a motion to forward a resolution in support of the preferred option presented by Gillette for the site’s development.

“How the building exactly is going to look is not really what we’re talking about tonight,” Becker noted. “We’re talking about setting aside the land and approving that a piece of it is Docks and Harbors’ to use and the rest is Parks and Rec, and the whale’s in that position, or at least somewhere in that position.”

Wilson said that when PRAC endorsed the proposal earlier this month, it was lending its support to the way Docks and Harbors and Parks and Recreation want to divide up the site, not necessarily to the current concept for the Maritime Center itself, which he said is likely to change if and when funding is secured.

“Parks and Rec is happy with the division. They may not be totally happy with what the building looks like right now,” Wilson said.

Becker’s motion was adopted without objection.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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