BEAUTIFUL BIRDING DAY

With snowy Skagway in the background, Julene Fairbanks, Shelby Surdyk and Nola Lamken check out birds and other wildlife on the waterfront during the annual Christmas Bird Count last month. See story in Features below.

Photo by Andrew Cremata

Documents please
New border rules begin on Jan. 31

By JEFF BRADY
The federal government reminds the traveling public that as of Jan. 31, 2008, all adults will be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and proof of identity, such as a driver’s license, when entering the United States through land and sea ports of entry.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will no longer accept oral declarations of citizenship from U.S. and Canadian citizens seeking entry into the United States. As of January 31, 2008:
• U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 19 and older will need to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate.
• Children ages 18 and under will only be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
• Or, in place of the above items, you can show a passport. Passports already are mandatory on all international flights.
If you have questions, contact CBP officers at the Skagway Port-of-Entry, 908-983-2325.
You have another year to obtain a passport. Near the end of the year, Sen. Ted Stevens was able to get a bill passed through Congress and signed by President Bush that delayed the passport requirement until June 2009. This was due to a backlog of requests as people tried to have them by summer 2008.
Passport applications are available through the Skagway Magistrate’s office. The current turnaround time is four to six weeks. For more information visit www.travel.state.gov or call 1-877-487-2778.

Meat now OK to cross
“As of now, you can bring in ruminant up to 50 pounds for personal use,” said Tom Keough, the new agricultural specialist with Customs and Border Protection in Skagway. “Anything more than that is commercial and treated differently. Lamb and goat must be identified as such. The main thing is to make sure it is properly identified.”
Keough said the rules on meat changed Nov. 19, shortly after he arrived here. Poultry at present also is fine, he added, as a recent Saskatchewan bird flu case was localized and all birds were taken care of.
As for fruits and vegetables, their country of origin also must be clearly labeled so it can be determined if the produce is allowed.
Keough said anyone who has questions should call him or other officers at the Skagway Port of Entry: 983-2325.
“Things do change quickly and the best thing is to know before you go and talk to us,” Keough said.
He said they are working at getting the word out to travelers this summer.
Information is also available at the Dept. of Agriculture website: www.usda.gov. Click on the Travel and Recreation link and you can find a list of Prohibited Items in the “Know Before You Go” online brochure.

Draft summer ferry schedule puts day boat in Skagway
Daily service to Haines restored, Bellingham trips to be cut in half

By JEFF BRADY
According to a draft schedule, the Alaska Marine Highway System will base the M/V Malaspina in Skagway next summer, running it as a Lynn Canal day boat to Haines and Juneau.
The fast ferry M/V Fairweather will be switched to a Juneau-Sitka roundtrip five days a week, and make two trips a week to Petersburg. For the past two summers, the Fairweather has run two trips a day, five days a week, from Juneau north – one to Haines and one to Skagway. While it shortened a ferry ride from here to Juneau to less than three hours, it eliminated a stop in Haines that had been popular among independent travelers.
The Malaspina, the oldest ship in the fleet, served as a day boat in Lynn Canal in 2000. Skagway, Haines and Juneau residents who spoke at a teleconference hearing on Jan. 10 said the return of the mainliner to the route was welcome news, however many others were critical of the schedule’s elimination of a second summer sailing from Bellingham, and reduced village connections.
Jan Wrentmore, chair of the Skagway Marine Access Committee (SMAC), congratulated the system on “achieving something we have been asking for, for many years, and that is consistent, daily, reliable service.”
She said having the Malaspina “home-ported” here with daily connections to Haines will recover revenue from the “Golden Circle” tour that was lost when the fast ferry ran just to Juneau. But she said she is a little concerned about the use of the older ship, and asked if there was a back-up plan if the ship had a problem.
Skagway Borough Assembly member Mike Korsmo, a member of the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board, echoed this concern but said everyone he had talked with “is pretty happy with the schedule.” He added that people here are also happy having four ships a week this winter. Denise Caposey, a school teacher, said schools would like the same “reliable, consistent service as in the summer.”
Craig Widener, who operates Pullen Creek RV Park, said the proposed summer schedule will improve his business.
“The fact that the Malaspina is coming back is the best news I have heard since the Malaspina left six years ago,” he said.
When the state dropped the regular Skagway-Haines connection, it affected bookings, he said, as a large part of his business comes from people who rent RVs in Whitehorse and want to complete the Golden Circle route. An unbroken circle involves driving to Skagway, taking the ferry to Haines, and then driving to Haines Junction and back to Whitehorse, or vice versa. Some include a spur to Juneau.
“I’m personally going the to Yukon Visitors Bureau and spread the news (that the day boat service is returning),” Widener added.
Shirley Bretthauer of Haines Hitch-up RV Park said traffic in the region had been on a decline until the Malaspina served that one summer. Then, when the Fairweather was moved to the run in 2004, the Haines-Skagway connection dropped from 10 roundtrips a week to just two. With the return of the Malaspina this summer, there will be nine roundtrip connections between the communities.
Chuck Van Kirk, the staff member who does the scheduling for AMHS, said starting the Malaspina from Skagway every morning and running it south will allow for a three-hour window in Juneau for those who have business there during the day. The ship will be back in Skagway at 11 p.m. and its crew will overnight on board.
Juneau resident Dean Williams said using the Malaspina in Lynn Canal “makes financial and business sense.... It’s the best road you’ve got.”
But several throughout Southeast panned the system for cutting out the second ferry to Bellingham in the summer, a route that makes money for the system. Many ferry workers also criticized reducing the Kennicott to just two cross-Gulf of Alaska trips a month, when that route is also making money. They suggested putting the ship on a Bellingham run during the two down weeks.
Van Kirk said the decision to cut the Kennicott’s runs was “to reduce costs.” In addition, there was a concern expressed in many of the smaller communities that AMHS was “putting the tourists ahead of the villages.”
Haines resident Barbara Lewis echoed comments from several in Hoonah and Angoon who are concerned about having to make an extra trip to Juneau to make connections to the day boat going to Sitka for hospital visits.
Tour operators and legislators who spoke said the state’s delay in releasing the summer schedule was hurting business. It usually is released in November or December, they noted.
With all the changes this year, it still might be a while before a final schedule is released. The goal had been “on or before Feb. 13,” but AMHS Director Capt. John Falvey recently said they will work to try and get the schedule posted by the end of this month.

UPDATE: The schedule was released on Jan. 29, and the Lynn Canal day boat service remained in the schedule. It will begin in mid-May. Watch for details in Feb. 15 issue or go to: https://www.dot.state.ak.us/oars/reservations/CalendarFM.amhsf

Comp Plan Rewrite: Time to plan for future is now

Two Stories

Barbara Sheinberg back to guide Skagway through the process

By ANDREW CREMATA
What will Skagway be like in 20 years? The future path of Alaska’s newest borough will be mapped out by current residents of Skagway in the form of a new comprehensive plan. Issues ranging from affordable housing to year-round economic viability will be assessed in the coming months and, with help from community input, the municipality hopes to have a clear set of goals outlined for the coming decades.
Almost 10 years ago, Barbara Sheinberg of Sheinberg Associates in Juneau worked with the then City of Skagway to develop a comprehensive plan which would act as a guidepost during the ensuing decade. Skagway’s recent borough formation necessitated a new comprehensive plan to tackle some fresh issues facing the municipality.
Enter Sheinberg once again to put together a plan which will map out the future of an increasingly diverse community. How to use land in Dyea and addressing port needs for burgeoning mining companies in the Yukon, are just two of the newest issues which were not imagined during the last effort. Many more subjects of importance for Skagwegians will undoubtedly be raised during the process of writing the new comp. plan.
Sheinberg met with the Planning and Zoning Commission at its Jan. 10, meeting and pointed out they would be the body that brings the finalized plan to the Borough Assembly and “the backbone of a steering committee.” The steering committee will assess the needs of the community and will be comprised of assembly members, persons from multiple boards and committees in Skagway, and members of the public at large.
“My job is to bring planning expertise,” said Sheinberg.
Sheinberg asked P&Z, and the borough assembly at its Jan. 10 meeting, to consider the “current needs of the community,” and what the needs will be “15 or 20-years in the future.” She asked how the community would use its land and how it would grow. She said putting together a plan with step-by-step actions would be an exciting process.

Barb Sheinberg was busy filling in the charts with ideas tossed around at the Town Meeting on Jan. 11. AC

“Buckle up,” she said. “It will take a lot of work.”
The steering committee will meet once a month, and Sheinberg has set up a six-month timetable to complete the plan by June 30. The committee met Jan. 22 after this issue’s deadline, and will be meeting every third Wednesday of the month.
The steering committee currently is comprised of 18 persons from various community boards. One of the first steps for the body will be to develop questions for a survey of residents in an attempt to assess what is most important to members of the community. The committee will design the questions, and there will be a random phone survey of residents in April.
“I am thrilled to be doing this,” said Sheinberg. “Skagway is an amazing community in a lot of ways.”
She said one such way was how Skagway utilized its comprehensive plan in making important decisions.
In a survey conducted in 1998 during the writing of the last comprehensive plan, some issues important to Skagway were housing, the need for a recreation center, and congestion in the Historic District. While many of the issues have been addressed, many are sure to resurface along with brand new opportunities for Skagway, some of which are more recently being brought to light (see accompanying article on the Town Hall meeting).
A project website and newsletter are in the works to bring the community progress updates on the project and the individual issues. Sheinberg said it would be important to get a diverse group of people interested in the project, and that more people would make for a better result.
To the Borough Assembly she said, “This can be your winter project.”

Soap Box Central: Ideas emerge at Town Hall meeting

By ANDREW CREMATA
There is no shortage of opinions in Skagway. The opportunity to express them came in the form of a town hall meeting at the Elks on Jan. 11. With the process of rewriting Skagway’s comprehensive plan underway, about 70 residents turned out to voice their own opinions concerning the most important issues facing the community.
Mayor Tom Cochran hosted the meeting and encouraged everyone to “work together to get some input for growth.” He also urged the crowd to voice whatever was on their minds: “Pretend there’s absolutely no limits. You can do whatever you want.”
He introduced Barbara Sheinberg who is currently working with the borough on a new comprehensive plan. Sheinberg said she was thrilled with the turnout and added, “Yes, it’s winter, but Skagway really cares.”
She urged everyone to consider the needs of the community for the coming 20 years and asked what they imagined it would look like, who would be living here, and how the economy would be different.
She broke down the overall subject of future needs into three needs: physical and environmental, social and economic, and economic. She said an upcoming survey would be a chance for everyone to provide input, and while there were different kinds of thinkers and some controversial topics, “there are no wrong answers here.”

Mark Kirko, Keith Knorr and Irene Soucek mark up maps of the Skagway area. JB

Cochran kicked off the brainstorming by saying he would like to see the restoration of the waterfront south of Second Ave., the relocation of the police department building to 17th Ave., and the borough explore options to acquire land north of the Pat Moore Bridge.
For the next hour, a host of ideas were brought up while Sheinberg made notes on a large pad of paper attached to an easel. Some of the ideas are as follows:
• Water quality will be a big issue in the future – John Tronrud.
• Dredge the Skagway River and dike the area north of the bridge – Keith Knorr
• Look to reclaim land on the riverbed for the purpose of handling large volumes of materials and “channelize” the Skagway River – Ed Fairbanks
• Get the count back up at the school by providing more year-round non-tourism jobs – Keith Knorr
• Seek out winter recreation tourism – Mavis Henricksen
• Move boat harbor to Long Bay and put in a third berth for more ships – John Tronrud
• Look into wind power and add more public parking – Gary Brummett
• Ban plastic bags – Tom Soucek
• Make Skagway non-smoking – Scott Logan
• Build a convention center – Keith Knorr
• Develop municipal entitlement lands – John Tronrud
• Add a roll-on, roll-off facility to the docks – Mike Korsmo
• Get water and sewage service for the Dyea Road area – Barb Brodersen.
• Build a swimming pool and expand the skateboard park – Stuart Brown
• Provide land for farming – Angie Hauge
• Hire a fulltime grant writer for the city – Keith Knorr
• Pursue a historic gambling casino – Jeff Brady
Sheinberg said anyone else wishing to add input could do so at a website being constructed for the purpose of the comprehensive plan rewrite. Meetings will also be held monthly by the steering committee putting together the plan.

BOROUGH: New med center to be named for Rasmusons
The Skagway Borough Assembly has granted a request to name the new medical center building for Edward A. and Jenny Rasmuson, however the Skagway medical clinic itself will likely retain the name, Dahl Memorial.
The Rasmuson Foundation requested the name change last month when it granted the municipality $800,000 toward construction of the new medical center. It also suggested the municipality change the design to have fewer exam rooms.
At the Jan. 10 assembly meeting, John Warder, chair of the clinic board, said the board supported renaming the facility, but not a design change for a project that is due to go out to bid in March.
After many meetings, “our own feeling is (the current design) is reasonable and feasible,” Warder said. “It would be foolish to go in and redesign.”
He said the Rasmuson family’s support of Skagway over the years was worthy of having their name on the building, noting that in addition to the grant, there has been the donation of land for the new clinic, more than $100,000 toward a new X-ray machine, and donations to the library as well.
Citizen Mavis Irene Henricksen objected to the name change, saying the Rasmuson name would be more fitting on the library because Jenny Rasmuson was one of its founders. She said Dr. P.I. Dahl served the community from 1920 to 1950 – delivering babies here for Skagway, Haines and even Whitehorse residents –and deserved the clinic name.
Former mayor Tim Bourcy suggested naming the building for the Rasmusons, and having the lobby dedicated to Dr. Dahl. This generated a discussion among assembly members about ways to honor both.
“I don’t want to lose that recognition of Dr. Dahl,” said Colette Hisman, adding there is very little about Dahl in the lobby of the current facility. In the end, most agreed that some educational panels about Dr. Dahl should be in the lobby of the new building.
Borough Manager Alan Sorum said the Rasmuson Foundation is only interested in the name on the building, and that it would be a problem for the municipality to change from Dahl Memorial Clinic, which is on all of its grant paperwork. The municipality is in the process of submitting its annual federal 330 health grant, for example.
“We may still do business as Dahl Memorial Clinic,” Sorum said, adding that having Edward A. and Jenny Rasmuson in the name “is too long for answering the phone.”
Assembly member Dave Hunz then noted that whatever they call it, the people will just shorten it to the clinic or medical center. “The only problem is where to look it up in the phone book.”
The assembly on a 5-0 vote (Dan Henry was absent) passed the resolution, which stated that the new clinic building will henceforth be called the Edward A. and Jenny Rasmuson Community Health Center.

BOROUGH: Dyea land sale date set
The Skagway Borough Assembly has set April 15 as the date of the first municipal sale of land in the Dyea area. The date was plugged into Ordinance 07-28, which passed second reading on a 5-0 vote on Jan. 10.
The six lots are part of Block B of the Taiya Inlet Subdivision, but are actually in the area of the entrance to Dyea, just north of the Chilkoot Trail Outpost, noted Mayor Tom Cochran. The parcels vary in size from 2.18 to 2.82 acres.
The sale of these lands will occur by lottery on April 15 at 7 p.m. in assembly chambers.
The assembly has not set a date for the seven Dyea Point lots designated in an earlier ordinance because of unresolved easement issues.
Assembly members said the April 15 date should be okay for people to get out and walk the land. To qualify, each applicant must be 18 or older, be current on all payments to the municipality, and will be allowed to purchase one non-refundable ticket for $100. The mayor will draw tickets, and assign available lots in order of preference noted by the applicant.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

HATHER HIGHLIGHTS – Brent Beckner fakes out two FHC Warriors during action at the Don Hather Tourney. See a preview of the SHS hoop season and a link to complete tourney coverage on the School Activities page below.

Photo by Jeff Brady

• HOLIDAY FEATURES: Birds prey on Christmas count; Skagway artist, ornament welcomed at White House

• SCHOOL ACTIVITIES: High hopes for hoop teams in 2008; Don Hather Tourney photos, results & boxscores

• JAN. OBITUARIES: Billie Belle Barry, Walter E. Gordon & Jonelle E. Butler, Herbert K. Smail

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