Castle Hill is the site of the 1867 transfer of the Alaskan territory. The state discontinued management of the historic area last year due to budget cuts. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The Sitka National Historical Park will oversee Castle Hill and Old Sitka again this summer. The State Department of Natural Resources announced last week (03-22-16) that the two agencies have renewed their cooperative management agreement for another season.

After the state closed its park offices last spring, the maintenance staff of Sitka National Historical Park tended to the grounds of Castle Hill and the historic portions of Old Sitka from June 30th to October 18th, 2015. The park used Castle Hill as a staging ground for an expanded Russian-American walking tour.

Mike Eberhardt , the state superintendent for the southeast area parks, said he was pleased with the federal support  last summer. “They’re very conscientious and it’s been so great that I haven’t had to fly over and meet with them. Because they’re doing such a good job.”


Given proposed reductions to the FY17 budget, it’s unlikely the state will resume management of Sitka parks anytime soon. But, Eberhardt said, the state is retaining ownership of the parks for a reason and has no plans to sell. “If we get the funding at this point, we’re hopeful that we can come back and resume state park management.”

The renewed cooperative management agreement will end in the fall.

The rest of Sitka’s state parks remain in passive management, with no oversight and the outhouses boarded. That includes the boat launch and recreation areas at Starrigavan, as well as the Halibut Point Recreation Area. Sitkans used to reserve the popular picnic area through the state’s park office.

With that system now gone, one Sitkan has devised a local solution. Samantha Cox noticed that Sitkans were attempting to make reservations through Sitka Chatters, a popular Facebook page. “It is wedding season and a lot of people on Chatters were saying ‘I need to reserve this but I don’t know how.’ ‘I’m getting married or I have memorial,'” Cox said.

Cox created a new Facebook page – called Sitka’s HPR Rec Reservation Page – to compile requests and serve as a conversation hub. Sitkans have been pretty good about picking up their trash, but when it comes to the shuttered outhouses, Cox said, “My suggestion to people was to take a honey bucket. If you want to go in the woods, use the bucket instead. Dump it in the ocean afterwards.”