Crescent Harbor (prior to its 2020 renovation). Sitka Police Chief Robert Baty says tightening up the parking code will give his department, and the Harbor Department, a way to crack down on serial abusers of public space in both harbor lots, “So, one or two or three individuals aren’t the one the sole benefactors of, of either leaving trailers unattended and they become an issue,” said Baty.

The city is cracking down on overnight trailer parking at Crescent Harbor, and on trailered boats that overstay the 10-day limit at Sealing Cove Harbor.

The Sitka Assembly has passed on first reading a revision to parking rules that is intended to give the Harbor Department more tools to prevent the unpermitted storage of trailers and boats in public parking areas.

Currently, the launch ramp and parking at Crescent Harbor is for day use only, and trailers can’t be parked overnight there. Sealing Cove has designated parking for vehicles with trailers in a 3-day area and a 10-day area. 

When the Sitka Assembly met on Tuesday (6-8-21) it approved changes to the Port and Harbors code. According to the revised language, anyone who wants to park a trailer with a boat on it overnight in the Sealing Cove parking lot has to have the permission of the Harbor Department first. 

The revised code language also bans parking trailers overnight in the Crescent Harbor parking lot. Commercial use of the parking lot is allowed only with a permit issued by the harbor department.

Sitka Police Chief Robert Baty said the department fields regular complaints about access to the parking lots and ramps. He said the policy changes were intended to make sure the lots were more accessible for the general public. 

“So, one or two or three individuals aren’t the one the sole benefactors of, of either leaving trailers unattended and they become an issue or their boats or for that matter, even businesses,” said Baty. “Because when a third of the public’s the general public’s parking spaces are taken for those it’s not really promoting that, that flow that I think was the intent of, of the city’s mission to provide this service to the public.”

During public comment, business owner John Dunlap, who owns Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures, said he uses the boat launch and Crescent Harbor parking lot for staging of his sea kayaking business. He worried that the new rules could force him to close up shop. 

But it concerns me that it, it, the existence of what I’m doing now becomes, at the discretion of the harbor department, to whether I can continue to function, it’s, it seems very tenuous, to me, that I’m depending on the good graces of the harbor department to keep running a business that’s run for 25 years here.

But assembly member Thor Christianson said he thought it was good to lay out some defined rules for businesses that are using the launch or parking lots. 

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable, that when you want to run a business on public property that you get a permit,” Christianson said. “We’re not even talking about charging.  You know, and without having that permit, there’s no way to lay out  the ground rules. And I don’t think that there would be an issue with our harbor department, figuring out a way to make it work for you.”

Assembly member Rebecca Himschoot asked if the proposed rules were practical, if for instance, someone’s trailer broke down on a Saturday and couldn’t be moved, and the harbormaster office was closed. Assistant harbormaster Jeremiah Johnson responded that someone was available seven days a week in his office, and they were happy to field requests like this. He said that if the code were updated, new signs would direct harbor users to ask for the required permission to overstay the rules. The “written permission” in this case would be a note entered into the daily log of the Harbor Department.  The assembly approved the revisions to the harbor’s parking policy on first reading with members Crystal Duncan and Valorie Nelson opposed. Both preferred to see the ordinance reviewed by the Port and Harbors Commission prior to another assembly vote.