Jones Point is a venerable place in the Chilkat Valley. Over the years it’s been the site of sawmills that have come and gone, picnicking families, and Klukwan canoes landing and launching. Now, the property has new stewards and a new purpose – to be rehabilitated, conserved and enjoyed by the community.
The 50 acres of Jones Point that sits along the forested banks of the Chilkat River went up for sale when the village Native corporation Klukwan Inc. filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The offices were locked and the property left to weather. The property was put up for sale as part of the bankruptcy settlement.
It’s a registered contaminated site, with a few old boats, cars and piles of diesel-soaked soil sitting under tarps. But where most buyers would balk at purchasing such a property, Takshanuk Watershed Council saw promise.
“We just looked at it as an amazing opportunity for us, for the community,” said Takshanuk executive director, Meredith Pochardt.
The council worked with The Conservation Fund, a non-profit with the mission of environmental preservation and economic development. Part of the organization’s work includes acquiring land for conservation. The fund paid to purchase the property and now Takshanuk owes it outright.
Besides Sawmill Creek and the banks of the Chilkat River, there are also several buildings on the property, like the big garage that Takshanuk is in the process of tearing down. That’s in order to comply with liability and insurance concerns.
Then there are the piles of dirt covered in tarps and held down with tires. That’s a project the watershed council has inherited. The contaminated soil is from another Klukwan Inc. property called the tank farm and is still being remediated.
“Yep, that’s ours now, that’s our dirt…we will take on remediation tasks for that,” Pochardt said. “We’ve never dealt with contaminated soils specifically before, but it’s obviously something that is in our scope of work and skills to be able to handle and deal with.”
The rusting boats, cars and other items need to be removed as well, including boxes and boxes of files, offices supplies and furniture within the building that once held the offices for Klukwan Inc. The corporation will move some of the files in the next few months although Takshanuk is relocating to the building from its downtown Haines this month. The council will also rent some of the office space to generate income. The building will give the council more program space, Pochardt says.
“We’ll be able to have a space that we can use for our education programs, for school programs, for community programs — [we’ll] kind of be able to have a home of our own.”
While Takshanuk plans some rehabilitation projects for the property, it is also open to the public. Pochadrt says she’d heard from many people about how they’ve enjoyed the area over the years.
“More and more [people are] always coming out of the woodwork, [saying] ‘that’s my favorite dog walking spot, or my favorite running spot or duck hunting spot.’ So obviously there’s some community value to this property.”
Pochardt says except for during subsistence hooligan season, motorized vehicles are now prohibited on the property.
As for Klukwan Inc., President Rosemarie Hotch says she was excited for the sale because it allows the corporation to retire its $1 million dollar settlement about three years ahead of schedule. It also recently sold another property across from the old Chilkat Cruises Dock. The dock itself is also for sale, but under ownership of the corporation’s general income trust.
Neither Hotch nor Pochardt would say how much the Jones Point property sold for. But its assessed value in 2014 by the borough is just over $730,000.
Takshanuk is planning an open house at its new offices this summer