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The city has recently improved the Auke Bay Boat Harbor, expanding parking, widening the access road and landscaping. However, the harbor is not a place for a resident to leisurely stroll to the waterfront to enjoy the view. A park sharing the nearby waterfront would expand the use of the waterfront to everyone.
The city has an opportunity to acquire a small piece of waterfront property in Auke Bay for public access. I hope the Assembly will act now, so as not to miss this opportunity.
I believe there is a strong argument for the city to acquire the property next to the parking lot owned by the city. A small park with minimal development would enhance the use of the waterfront for all users. It would allow kids and adults to enjoy the rich sea life and birds that use the bay. And it would provide safe access for those who want to launch a kayak, simply walk to the water's edge, or sit to watch a sunset.
Such a neighborhood park would be used by pupils of Auke Bay Elementary School as a learning laboratory, giving Sea Week added meaning; by the University of Alaska Southeast, which has its student activities center directly across the road, and by residents of Auke Bay and those who visit the neighborhood.
The current owner of the property in question has expressed his willingness to sell or exchange his property so that a public access might be created. He has offered to take in exchange vacant CBJ land elsewhere or a triplex, which the city has had on the real estate market since early June. The North Douglas triplex has had no takers, so it would seem that an exchange could be worked out to benefit all parties. Auke Bay resident Nancy Lehnhart, who has been the primary advocate for the park, has discussed with various interest groups the possibility of participating in the park's creation
The longer the decision to acquire the land is delayed, the higher the cost will be. The owner is continuing to pursue the permitting process for construction of a business enterprise he would just as leave not do. However, he needs to keep moving forward in the development process so as not to compromise the investment he has made. The time for making a decision is now or the opportunity to gain public pedestrian access to the Auke Bay waterfront may be lost.