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Several features of the Douglas Harbor Expansion have great benefits for the harbor user. The new double boat-launch is perfect for all the trailer-sailors who want to get south of town and the old launch is now a good spot for kayak launching. However, it is clear that the plan has not taken the pedestrian into consideration - even though Douglas is arguably the harbor most used by the walking public.
With good reason, a great deal of attention has been paid to the future of Juneau's waterfront. The Marine Park project, Subport plan and Waterfront planning process have focused attention on the community's desire for this vital commodity. Concurrent with this planning process, however, across the channel the Douglas Harbor expansion is underway with several features completely at odds with community desires expressed in the waterfront plan.
The Juneau Waterfront Improvement Plan, detailed on the CBJ Web site, has interviewed stakeholders, held public workshops and conducted community-wide surveys to develop a, "comprehensive strategy for meeting the needs of waterfront users." The No. 1 priority has been to increase public access to the waterfront, specifically in the form of a seawalk with covered areas, pocket parks, etc. In fact, the stakeholder's report suggests that there is, "unanimous support" for this public seawalk. The plan indicates that the waterfront in Juneau has been developed without consideration to public access, necessitating expensive reconfiguration.
The two-phase Douglas Harbor expansion is about half-finished. The harbor has been dredged and the fill used at the base of the cold storage dock and to increase the width of about half of Savikko Road which parallels the harbor. During the next phase - largely funded by the bond package passed in the Legislature - the remaining portion of Savikko Road and the causeway will be widened and all the parking areas paved. Once completed, the new fill areas will be almost entirely asphalt and concrete. Landscaping for the project calls for a 5-foot wide strip of grass to separate driving lanes and a single picnic table at the top of the launch ramp. The seawalk, identified as so important in Juneau, will be nothing but a 7-foot wide concrete sidewalk between car bumpers and a fence on the Douglas waterfront.
In phase one, enough fill was added for 52 new trailer-parking spaces and 100 additional car-parking stalls. These new lots have never been filled to capacity even on our beautiful June nights with all four softball fields in operation and the spring kings running. And the expansion is only half complete. When finished, the project will contain over twice the parking currently available and over five times the pre-expansion parking.
Ironically, Douglas is one place where the car does not have to compete with the pedestrian. The new fill land is more than adequate for both increased parking and a landscaped public seawalk. The current plan calls for three traffic lanes and three parking rows across the width of Savikko Road. If this were limited to two traffic lanes and two rows of parking we would still gain 240 parking stalls and have a 60-foot open strip along the water. A truly wonderful harbor plan for all users, such as Sitka's Crescent Harbor, is possible in Douglas.
An increase in parking was required along with the increase in amenities at Douglas Harbor. However, the current plan provides parking far out of proportion to the needs and does it to the exclusion of all other public amenities. The Douglas waterfront should not look like an overgrown Kmart parking lot of empty asphalt. Separating the public from their waterfront is a mistake that we are trying to rectify in Juneau. We do not have to lose the same opportunity in Douglas.
On one of the many nice nights yet to come this summer, walk to the Douglas Harbor and look at the current parking areas. Then double them. If you agree that there must be a better plan, talk to your Assembly members, Douglas Committee members and members of the Harbor Board. Insist that the final plan for the Douglas Harbor follow the recommendations for the waterfront in other parts of the borough.
Corey Wall of Douglas has kept a boat in Douglas Harbor until this spring.