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My Turn: Moving the Fisherman's Memorial can be done

Posted: May 2, 2011 - 7:45pm

Almost 20 years ago, the Fishermen’s Memorial, city officials, commercial fishing interests, and private landowners came together and mutually decided to locate a memorial to commercial fishermen and women who had died, on the waterfront at Taku Fisheries and Smokeries. We selected the memorial’s location for several reasons:

• It was on the last undeveloped waterfront land downtown on which the memorial could fit.

• The uplands was undeveloped, but had easy pedestrian access, parking, restrooms, and was located near Juneau’s historic fishing activities.

• The major upland landowner, Franklin Properties and Giorgio Galluzio who was developing Giorgio’s at the Pier Restaurant (now the Twisted Fish), gave the memorial and city an easement to build the memorial.

• An annual Blessing of the Fleet was already occurring at the old ferry terminal, which is now a ramp to cruise ships.

• The memorial polled commercial fishermen and women, crew, and businesses on possible locations for a memorial, and the majority wanted the memorial and an annual Blessing of the Fleet downtown, near Juneau’s historic fishing industry, with unobstructed access to open waterfront to allow quiet reflection, and wanted it downtown so the local community and visitors could visit the memorial and understand that Juneau has been a fishing community.

• A memorial along the waterfront that had open access to the water would allow a place for an annual Blessing of the Fleet for community participation and enjoyment.

As the downtown waterfront developed since memorial construction, cruise ship activities and waterfront development have led the City to propose developing a large cruise ship dock in front of the memorial. That would obstruct the memorial’s open access to Gastineau Channel, and would block access to the memorial by fishing boats participating in the Blessing of the Fleet Ceremony. Therefore, the memorial has been working with City officials on a process to understand the impacts of the new cruise ship dock construction on the memorial and the Blessing of the Fleet and develop a plan to relocate the memorial.

The basic componets of relocation include integrating the memorial into the ongoing Sea Walk project, maintaining open access to Gastineau Channel for the annual Blessing of the Fleet, locating the memorial so it continues to have access to parking, restrooms, and pedestrian access, keep the memorial downtown near Juneau’s historic commercial fishing infrastructure, allow access to shops and restaurants to accommodate a post-Blessing brunch, have the memorial continue to inform visitors of Juneau’s important role in Alaska’ commercial fishing industry, and allow a quiet place for those who have lost loved ones to reflect and remember those who have died.

Among the possible new locations for the memorial under consideration is one that is seaward of Waterfront Park, between Hangar on the Wharf and the downtown library.

The public will have an opportunity to view this option and others at a public meeting on the memorial’s relocation at 5 pm on May 25 at Centennial Hall. The memorial and City Docks and Harbors and Engineering Departments will host this public meeting to discuss the pro and cons of relocation alternatives.

All of us appreciate the sensitive nature of this action. Moving the memorial will be akin to relocating a graveyard. Some names on the memorial are the only tangible remembrance of individuals lost at sea.

With your input and sensitivity, the memorial believes that a new location can be found that is unobstructed by a cruise ship dock, maintains the integrity of the initial reasons for constructing the memorial, City and public interests, the public, the fishing industry, and the families who support the memorial and its location.

This year’s annual Blessing of the Fleet will be at 10 a.m. on May 7 and we invite the community to attend. Immediately following the Blessing, Reecia Wilson and her crew at the Twisted Fish will host a free community brunch at the Twisted Fish. This free brunch donated by Wilson is an example of how our community recognizes and supports — with their good deeds and financial support — the memorial, the fishing industry, and a City willing to accommodate diverse and important interests.

• The Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial Board of Directors is comprised of Bruce B. Weyhrauch, Tom Gemmell, Ted Merrill, Linnea Osborne, Tisa Becker, Bob Millard and Melissa Museth.

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