Planning for the next phase of construction of the Sitka Seawalk is underway. The 8-foot pathway will connect with the existing portion of the seawalk at the Sitka Public Library, and wind its way around – and under – the O’Connell Bridge, and terminate at Totem Square near City Hall.
See planning documents for Phase II of the Sitka Seawalk, and leave a comment, on the project website.
The design and engineering team spent about an hour Wednesday evening (11-30-22) covering the history, funding, and timetable for the project which, when all is said and done, will cost something over $5-and-a-half million dollars. The money comes from a combination of federal and state grants, and a local match from Sitka’s share of the so-called cruise ship head tax, or the “Commercial Passenger Vessel Tax,” which funded the first phase of construction along Crescent Harbor out to Sitka National Historical Park.
The most challenging part of construction of Phase II will be building a path on the ocean-side of the O’Connell Bridge abutment.
Tyler Bradshaw, with PND Engineering, told the audience that a lot of thought and research had gone into this portion of the project.
“One of the critical studies that we performed over the summer was the wind and wave analysis,” Bradshaw said. “Looking at how big the waves are coming – primarily from this direction out here (Eastern Channel) – there’s a pretty large fetch where the wind can gain energy, and some fairly significant waves can come into this area. I think anybody that’s stood at that lightering facility in a storm knows that there’s some fairly significant wave action that can occur here. And what that wind and wave analysis allowed us to do was establish an elevation for the seawalk. We’re putting it about 19 feet above the zero mark that’s down here. That’s approximately the elevation of the parking lot there by the realty office, just to give you some perspective there. It also told us that we needed some really large armor rock to protect that slope. We also were able to look at various slopes of the armor rock to minimize the footprint without having to push the elevations up too high. With varying slopes, your elevation is going to vary because the waves will run up on top of that seawalk. So that’s what we’re looking at when we do those wind and waves analysis because we don’t want somebody getting inundated with wave action.”
Although the first phase of the seawalk has been very well-received by Sitkans, not everyone in the audience Wednesday was thrilled by the design for the second phase. This resident of Maksoutoff Street was already feeling pressure from the rapid increase in cruise ship tourism this season.
“If you put this walkway on the perimeter of the bridge,” the resident said, “I think it will devalue my home quite considerably because I already have enough problems with tourist stuff, without having them all be able to look into my living room every single day.”
Current plans for Phase II of the seawalk are at 35-percent. A public comment period is open from now until December 30. Planners hope to take public input and have a 75-percent plan complete by the spring or summer of 2023. Then they’ll have another public meeting, and move to final design by the end of the year.