Harbor, launch ramp improvements on the way

But some are expressing concern about continuing lack of parking for trailers

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2001

Juneau harbor users will see launch ramp improvements at North Douglas, Douglas and Amalga harbors by spring, although changes won't completely alleviate parking woes, city Port Director Joe Graham said.

At Amalga Harbor, the city plans to renovate the lower parking lot, increase the space at the head of the launch ramp, install new planks and refurbish the float. A new restroom, 25 additional parking spaces and launch space for kayakers also are planned, Graham said during a meeting last week.

The project should cost about $700,000, with much of the funding coming from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The improvements should be finished by spring, Graham said.

The next step for the city is to obtain permits and about $500,000 in funding to dredge Amalga to minus 10 feet. The ramp, near 25 Mile Glacier Highway, is growing in popularity, but can't always be used because of low tides, Graham said. While the project won't occur in the next year, public comment has pointed to the need to dredge, he said.

"We think it's worth it, especially if we get federal money," he said. "We think it solves a lot of problems for all users."

After a public meeting earlier this year, the city reworked plans for North Douglas, where commercial kayak groups have been in conflict with some launch ramp users, Graham said. The city plans to install new, longer ramp planks, expand parking and refurbish the float, he said.

The project also will include beach access, most likely a gravel pad, to the east side of the North Douglas ramp for kayakers.

Work at North Douglas should be complete by spring at an estimated cost of $250,000. Cruise ship passenger fees and commercial fees will fund the kayak launch improvements, Graham said.

Steve Gebert, who uses ramps throughout the community to launch his boat, said trailer owners are not getting the same level of treatment as other harbor users. He said he is disappointed in the emphasis in the kayak launch at North Douglas when the city should be doing more to fix existing ramps and provide parking.

"Parking is horrendous for people who have trailers," he said.

Juneau Harbor Board member Budd Simpson said the board is acutely aware of parking shortages.

"The sense on the board is that you can't have harbors without parking," he said.

Meanwhile, work in Douglas is underway. A new double-lane launch ramp, more parking and an expansion of Savikko Road are planned. The new launch area will be dredged to minus 6 feet and the existing ramp will stay in place to ease congestion. The $5 million project is behind schedule, but should be complete in the spring, Graham said.

The Juneau Assembly today is scheduled to consider a bid award for a harbor office and visitor reception area at Statter Harbor in Auke Bay. The project will include offices, restrooms, public showers and a laundry facility, Graham said.

Longer term, a public launch ramp at Tee Harbor is on the horizon, Graham said. The harbor department plans additional public meetings over the winter to update residents about the projects.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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