The third meeting of the Haines Waterfront Aesthetics Committee centered on a long discussion about what else – a parking lot. The expanded parking lot that is part of the proposed small boat harbor expansion has been a sticking point for critics of the design.
The aesthetics committee was formed by the mayor to help ease concerns about the visual impact of the harbor expansion on the Haines waterfront.
At previous aesthetics committee meetings, Mayor Jan Hill and other committee members have admonished those who asked to alter the parking lot portion of the harbor expansion. They have said that their job is to work with the current design to improve aesthetics, not to change the design itself.
But the parking lot again was a central issue at Wednesday’s meeting. The committee was working to come up with recommendations on the 95 percent phase of the harbor design to submit to the planning commission.
Committee member Burl Sheldon said the parks and recreation committee recommended the west part of the parking lot be pulled back and instead filled with vegetation.
“Without this vegetated approach, Lookout Park would be entirely surrounded by gravel parking lot and pavement,” he said. “So we would hope that there could be a vegetated area, which would require some sacrifice in parking.”
Don Turner, who represents the Port and Harbor Committee, balked at that suggestion.
“I am reluctant to see the parking get shrunk down any,” he said.
Tourism Director Leslie Ross had a different idea that would also potentially cut into the space of the parking lot. She proposed a sidewalk on the water edge of the parking lot, to give people access to take a stroll on the waterfront.
“I haven’t seen too many harbors that don’t have a walkway,” Ross said. “I mean, I’m thinking of Auke Bay as well, there’s a sidewalk that goes around the whole harbor. Not only for people to be standing there looking but also for people using the parking lot, that you have an area to walk on.”
The committee also got into a discussion about potential alternative parking for harbor users. Sheldon asked about using areas of Mission Street for harbor parking. Mayor Jan Hill said fishermen she talked to weren’t happy about that idea. Committee and borough assembly member Diana Lapham said the group should keep in mind that the development of the harbor is happening because it is a ‘working harbor’.
“The aesthetics are important, yes. But this harbor is being developed for the users of the harbor,” Lapham said. “Not for you, not for me. Not for people that live up the highway and only come into town periodically. It’s being expanded upon because we don’t have the room in there for people that want to put their boats in the harbor that are working the harbor.”
Chilkat Valley News reporter Karen Garcia responded.
“I personally think the harbor is – you’re saying it’s not for me and it’s not for you. But it is for me and it is for you,” Garcia said. “The people who are using the harbor are not the only ones who are paying for the harbor. It’s a public project. All the taxpayers are paying for it — not just the people who use it. So it is for everyone in town and it is for people up the highway.”
As the meeting wrapped up, committee members said they didn’t feel prepared to make any detailed recommendations to the planning commission. Mayor Hill said she would write a memo with general aesthetics goals, including a waterfront trail, using natural trees and vegetation for greenery, and keeping the fisherman’s memorial that is currently at Lookout Park.
Hill said the ‘underlying message’ is they ‘don’t want to see it all pavement and gravel.’ She said the aesthetics committee will continue to meet periodically as the harbor project continues.
The planning commission meets at 6:30 tonight to discuss the 95 percent design of the harbor expansion project. A model of the harbor expansion created with a 3D printer by resident Mike Armour will be at the meeting for people to view.