Petersburg Seeks Comments on Conceptual Plan for Remote Dock Improvements
Last week, the Port of Petersburg board took a first look at a concept design for parking, dock and ramp improvements that could happen at Papke’s Landing, about 10 miles south of Petersburg. The property is still state owned and there are many questions and concerns about how to fund upgrades or maintenance of this property. But the borough is looking for comments on a long-term vision for this sector.
Papke’s Landing is used by remote residents to access homes and recreational cabins. It is also used by boaters from Petersburg and several nearby lodges that offer sport fishing during the warmer months.
A nearby resident, John Murgas, noted the site’s importance for transportation and commerce.
“It’s a deep water port,” Murgas said. “It’s very well protected from the weather and the tidal currents are minimal. Put it all together and it really makes it a great place for public funding of all the different programs that are available.
The Assembly in Petersburg last year agreed to spend $35,920 on concept drawings for Papke’s landing, as well as a boat launch on southern Mitkof Island.
Engineer Alan Murph of Harai and Associates presented the draft plan for Papke’s to Port Council this month. The concept includes several new rock-filled parking areas, a new mooring float and gangway, and a new concrete launch pad with floats. This new ramp would be just south of the existing ramp. Plans could also include public toilets and a new harbor maintenance building.
The preliminary cost estimate for the project puts the construction price at around $6.4 million, although it could be done in phases. Some local leaders are hoping that federal infrastructure funding or other grants could pay for it.
Borough Assemblyman Dave Kensinger uses the wharf to travel to Petersburg from his home on nearby Kupreanof Island. He said the wharf was in poor condition and improvements were long overdue.
“I think what’s really changed is the amount of usage,” Kensigner said. “And what I see, the amount of use there is amazing at certain times of the year. And it’s not the people who live in the Papke area. Very few people in the Papke area there Most of the people who seem to be mooring boats and leaving are from the city and the other problem we have there too is a vehicle drop off point, parking there.
Kensinger said another change has been the amount of state and university land sold in the area and the new development that has occurred. Papke’s wharf was one of three remote wharfs donated by the Alaska Department of Transportation to Petersburg in 2016. The two parties disagreed on the terms of this transfer, but the assembly of the The borough last year expressed interest in resuming negotiations with the DOT. Other government agencies are involved. The land on the waterfront is owned by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, while the United States Forest Service leases state land for the boat launch. But the borough has purchased plots from the state to use for future parking.
Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht was keen to take care of anything that would require a lease with the state.
“We want this resolved before we take possession of the wharf,” Giesbrecht said. “We want DOT and DNR to work together and fix this and say, give us the land. The borough would own the flooded lands and all the properties that the MRN owns there. I just got back from a conversation with them. It’s going to be hard. The DOT is eager for this to happen. The MNR does not want to do anything other than its current rules. So it’s probably going to go a little higher up to the governor’s office. We’ll see what we can do.
In the past, local leaders have also been reluctant to pay for site maintenance, with expected costs for snow removal, parking and permit enforcement. It is estimated that this will add $100,000 or more to the port service budget.
Brandon Allison recently purchased the Majestic Eagle Lodge, one of the nearby sport fishing operations, and thought users wouldn’t expect free upgrades.
“I would be open to the option of liking us as lodges or anybody there paying a fee to be able to use it, maintain the property there, you know, to store the cars that are there, or use the ramp, redo a dock,” Allison said. “It’s definitely essential to our way of life there.”
The Petersburg Port Service currently does not have the money to build improvements to Papke’s or maintain an additional facility. Its reserves are earmarked for a harbor dredging project planned for this year and executives are also interested in exploring the potential for a new harbor at Scow Bay.
Port Board Chairman Bob Martin called Papke’s concept a good start.
“But I’m sure the public has all kinds of ideas,” Martin added. “We haven’t even started that process yet. But I think it’s a great idea of what, a vision of what could happen,” he said.
If the borough can overcome the hurdle of land ownership, it will still have to pay for all the engineering and design work before it is ready to build.
The board voted in favor of Papke’s upgrade concept while seeking public comment on the designs. This month, Borough Assembly members also encouraged users to provide feedback to them or the council.
The concept plan is posted on the Borough’s website.