Bridge Park concepts get direction

Posted: Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly has tamed the polite battle royal between Docks and Harbors and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee over Bridge Park.

The Assembly Committee of the Whole met Monday night to discuss the many options presented for what to do with Bridge Park - the area by the Juneau-Douglas Bridge where Public Works has a building they've moved out of.

City engineer Rorie Watt gave overviews of not only the different concepts by both departments, but also three options for a seawalk in that sector.

PRAC chairman Jeff Wilson and port director John Stone also were on hand to pitch what they'd like to see in the space.

Watt said both sides actually have a lot of ideas in common. PRAC wants to see a lot of green space. Wilson said there actually is only one park along the waterfront and it doesn't really have green space.

PRAC concept designs include a lot of green space, room for the Whale Project, fishing piers, picnic shelters and more. They still leave room for some Docks and Harbors-related concepts on the north side of the bridge, where that department currently has float plane docks.

What PRAC does not want to see is storage or buildings on site, as Wilson said the committee feels those can be located elsewhere. Wilson said the committee is looking at different concepts that would draw people to the park. Some ideas have included an "interpretive center" style site - which would include educational pieces. Other recreational opportunities also would likely be made available.

Docks and Harbors wants to see a building added to the site, which would include office space for them, potentially also moving Marine Services there and a Maritime Museum. As for under the bridge, they want to use it for secure storage.

Watt said the Alaska Department of Transportation owns the bridge and has rights to the airspace, however the city owns the land. He said DOT would likely be OK with recreational activities or storage under the bridge, as long as storage did not include hazardous materials or hazardous recreation. Watt also said DOT would likely be opposed to any building under the bridge, even for storage.

While the COW didn't have a problem with continuing the seaplane docks and possibly adding a fish market and other harbor activities on the north side of the bridge, the Assembly members largely voiced opposition to any storage under the bridge.

Docks and Harbors did get a big nod of approval for a building. Stone had suggested the building would provide at least some level of security to the park, keeping it a place where people would want to go.

Assemblyman Johan Dybdahl agreed with Stone's assessment.

"I do think it's a real important element to have some presence down there," he said. "Otherwise we could create a place that's not as pleasant as people would like."

Mayor Bruce Botelho said the building focusing on being a maritime museum would be the lynchpin in the ability to use marine passenger fees.

"I'm less inclined to see any building on the site without that element," Botelho said.

However, he also wanted to see the building planned for as far back from shore as possible.

Assemblyman Bob Doll was not thrilled with the idea of any building. He also said they should keep in mind the Coast Guard cutter Storis is being proposed to be retired in Juneau as a maritime museum.

Wilson and Assembly members said they wanted this to be a place not only for cruise ship passengers to enjoy, but also Juneauites.

Botelho said the site also needs to anticipate a place for snow storage, as the city is limited in where it can push snow.

Assemblywoman Ruth Danner suggested concept be used as far as under-the-bridge planning, and the Assembly agreed.

Docks and Harbors will now delve into the finer details of planning the north side of the bridge, PRAC can plan under the bridge and the two departments will work together on the building concept.

Assemblyman Merrill Sanford told them to open up their perspective a little and try not to cram everything they want in this little space. He said there is space up to the Gold Creek area where they could make a lot of good things happen.

As far as funding, City Attorney John Hartle said he will have to do more research on how they can and can't use marine passenger fees, particularly if a building is being partially used by the city for non-tourism activities.

Seawalk options also will be worked out later, when dollar figures are presented.

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• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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