Interim manager Brad Ryan and landscape architect Chris Mertl walk the proposed trail route. (Abbey Collins)

A waterfront trail and park in Haines is one step closer to becoming a reality. The final draft of a conceptual plan for the Portage Cove Interpretive Trail and Park was presented this week.

I walked about half the proposed trail with interim borough manager Brad Ryan, and Chris Mertl, a landscape architect with Juneau-based Corvus Design. He’s leading the design part of the project.

We start at the harbor, where phase one of a major expansion project is underway.

The trail project doesn’t include many changes in this area. Mertl says a waterfront sidewalk will probably stay as it is.

“Maybe in 15-20 years if it does need to be replaced you could replace it with something that’s going to match the Portage Cove trail aesthetics,” says Mertl. “But right now it works, it’s functional, and there’s no need to expend funds on this. You’ve already got a functioning pedestrian route along this section.”

That’s the same for a couple sections along the route.

Ryan points out where the new park would go.

“Lookout Park either moves or stays, depending on what the community wants,” says Ryan. “Then lookout harbor park – I guess that’s what we’ll call it – is on the far end over there toward the cruise ship dock.”

Mertl has met with the community several times at this point. And he says there’s been a fairly strong consensus to build a park in a new, nearby location.

“Just because Lookout Park is going to be surrounded by parking, there’s going to be some grade issues, and it’s no longer going to be a waterfront park,: says Mertl. “And I think that creating a new park that better meets the community needs in that location is going to benefit the community.”

It’s unclear what the plan is for the existing Lookout Park. Mertl says the new park is designed to include a plaza, memorial, and a shelter.

“So the pavilion here is going to be 20 by 30. It’s going to be larger than what’s currently at Lookout Park,” says Mertl. “And it’s going to be level underneath so it’s going to have much more usable space that’s undercover.”

The park would run from Picture Point to the Portage Cove Campground (Abbey Collins)

From the park, the trail would break away from the road, and run closer to the beach.

We cut down into what is now mostly brush and trees, and walk along the beach to the cruise ship dock. The path would then continue on down Beach Rd., and up the hill to the Portage Cove Campground.

There would also be an offshoot of the trail cutting through the woods, connecting to the campground.

The draft plan incorporates a Chilkat Blanket design throughout the trail, to create a unifying theme. There would also be interpretive signs and recreation areas that would have things like a small shelter, fire rings, or benches.

There are a couple parts of the trail we didn’t get to. Including the section that would run from the harbor to Picture Point. And, a path that would run on top of the breakwater in the harbor. That would be the most expensive section to build, at just over $2 million.

The entire cost of the project is estimated at about $5.8 million.

The proposal isn’t to do the whole project right away. It’s to implement it in phases as funding, including grants become available.

Now, the plan needs to be endorsed by the parks and rec advisory committee, planning commission and port and harbor advisory committee. Then it will go to the assembly.

You can find a link to the draft plan here.