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Park in the making

A wetlands observation deck and trails are part of a new Lemon Creek park

Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2003

The city of Juneau and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are teaming up with Trail Mix to build a small park and trail system in the Lemon Creek wetlands.

The park, known as the JPD Wetlands Enhancement Project, is being built behind the Juneau Police Department headquarters and will be used as an educational area for schoolchildren, a recreation area for the neighborhood and a place to relax for police officers.

"I think the neat part of it is that it will create sort of a neighborhood park," said Trail Mix Executive Director James King. "I think it will also be a neat opportunity for kids from the middle school, and it will be a wonderful facility for the police department."

"It's one of those great things that is done for the community by a number of organizations," said project manager Skye Stekoll, who works for the city Engineering Department. "Everyone's worked together for something that is great for the community. Everyone will benefit, especially the school kids."

Matching grants from the city and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided the majority of the funding for the project and another grant is being considered by the city. Stekoll said the project will cost about $110,000. Trail Mix has been building a viewing platform this past week and will begin constructing a trail around a human-made pond in the next several weeks.

"Our biggest role has been to come out and help with the trail part of it and the deck part of it," said King. "Our specialty is the trail work."

Stekoll said the project has been in the works since the construction of the police station. It will be completed by the end of the summer.

"The whole park was designed with the intention of a whole class of kids coming down," said Stekoll. "The deck will be able to hold over 30 kids."

Stekoll said students, particularly those from nearby Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, will use the area to conduct educational studies on Southeast's natural environment.

"The expectation is for the elementary kids to come out here and get some classroom time, check out the pond and the things that are growing in it," said Trail Mix employee Peter Cross. "So they can get outside and spend time looking at plants, bugs, slugs ... and there's tons of eagles."

King and Stekoll said the park meets a number of needs.

"One purpose is restoration, to restore the wetlands so they are more valuable to the natural environment," King said. "Also to make it available for those who work at the police station, those in the neighborhood and those at the school. And anyone else who wants to go and enjoy it."

The area has a long way to go before reaching the desired goals.

"There's always a balance you have to find of how much you impact the environment," said Trail Mix employee Andrew Morphis. "You have to minimize the impact."

"Make access, but make it look as though we were never there," is what Cross said they are trying to achieve. "As quickly as possible, make it look as though we were never out there.

"You'll come back in two years and you won't be able to tell we were here," Cross said.

Cross said that while constructing the viewing platform, they have been able to enjoy some of the natural beauty of the area.

"In the short time that we've been out here, the eagles have been amazing," said Cross, who said he has also seen kingfishers, sandpipers and plenty of ducks. "This isn't even really bird time, so I imagine in early spring there would be lots of birds."

One of the considerations while designing and building the area was to make it accessible to those with disabilities.

"There's just not that many places for people in wheelchairs to get out and enjoy," said Cross. "I'd like to think that what we do for Trail Mix is making everybody's life a little easier."

Once the viewing area and trail have been completed, those involved in the project will help speed up revegetation.

"When this meadow gets revegetated, it's just going to be lupine and wildflowers," said Cross, noting that the process has already naturally begun. "Things in Alaska grow so fast. If you just let it be, things will just take off."

Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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