The latest draft of the preferred park layout (Corvus Design)

A waterfront trail and park in Haines is estimated to cost close to $6 million. That’s based on plans developed during two rounds of meetings between designers and the community. The preferred plan includes a path on top of the breakwater in the harbor, and a Chilkat blanket design as a unifying theme.

The idea for a waterfront trail that connects picture point to the Portage Cove Campground was resurrected during discussions about the harbor expansion project.

Chris Mertl, a landscape architect with Juneau-based Corvus Design is leading the project. He and Dick Somerville from PND Engineers presented at the latest round of community meetings.

“I think the important thing is that the routing makes sense, the trail layout makes sense,” said Mertl. “That the park layout makes sense, the facilities within the park make sense. But we’re only doing conceptual design. You can’t get caught up in the weeds and the details because the weeds and the details haven’t really been developed yet.”

After refining preferred plans for the park and trail, Somerville drew up the cost estimates. There is a 15 percent contingency included in the price tag.

The borough will likely look for grant funding to help pay for the trail and park. Cruise ship passenger taxes could also be used for part of the project.

The most expensive piece is a part of the trail that would run on top of the breakwater in the harbor. That idea was popular among community members at the first round of meetings with designers in January. But it’s not cheap. The breakwater path is estimated to cost about $2 million.

Debra Schnabel wondered if that is something that wouldn’t end up getting a lot of use, because of wind. But Sean Gaffney pointed to a similar structure in Skagway.

“It is really quite popular,” said Gaffney. “And part of the reason is because it’s just—aesthetically it’s really a cool place to be.”

Another high-budget item is a new park to replace Lookout Park. The possible relocation of the recreational area is motivated by the ongoing harbor expansion. The park is estimated to cost about $800,000. At the first meeting of the week, community members were asked to write down their top priorities for that area. A shelter as ranked number one, followed by a fishermen’s memorial and a picnic space.

Assemblyman Tresham Gregg questioned the need for a new shelter.

“We already have that facility in Lookout Park where it exists,” said Gregg. “We have a natural amphitheater and a shelter, actually an expanse now the size of an airport that you can have all kinds of activity in. So I don’t understand why we’re even considering tearing down Lookout Park.”

There were a few other concerns raised about pieces of the project. Assembly member Heather Lende worried about the proximity of the trail to the harbor.

“Looking now at the construction there it seems like guiding people to walk through a parking lot where trucks are coming and going, boats are backing up, people are getting ice, dropping off crab pots, whatever, that might be dangerous, actually,” said Lende.

Schnabel said she wants to see some continuity with existing designs in the community.

“I kind of would like to see us in this project to try and not start something absolutely, positively new again,” said Schnabel. “That we kind of shape our things so that there is some match to what we’ve already got.”

Residents also weighed in on a theme for interpretive signs that would run along the trail with information about Haines. The Chilkat blanket design was preferred.

From here, Mertl will continue to refine the preferred plans and draw up a final document in the next four to six weeks. After that, the plans will be presented to the assembly. The project will come back to the planning commission for a public hearing at each level of design.

You can see the preferred trail and park designs here.