The waterfront trail could stretch from Picture Point to the Portage Cove Campground. (Haines Borough RFP)

New York urban design firm James Corner Field Operations arrived in Haines Saturday night. They’re famous for urban restoration projects that infuse developed urban spaces with art and nature, like the New York High Line. Alaska Arts Confluence invited them to work with the borough and the Chilkoot Indian Association on the Portage Cove Trail project.

Tatiana Choulika and Colin Curley from James Corner Field Operations are getting a feel for the waterfront in Haines this week. They’re here to consider how to infuse the Portage Cove trail project with arts and community flavor. At a presentation at the Chilkat Center on Monday night Choulika described their mission.

“We have experience in putting projects together, but you are Haines. We’re not,” she said.

“We are here to help you become what you really want to be.”

The firm will listen to community input and turn local ideas for the waterfront into drawings and renderings of what that could look like. They plan to work with the Borough and the Chilkoot Indian Association to incorporate those ideas into the Portage Cove Trail plan. The Arts Confluence will pay the firm using an $86,000 design grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Haines borough and Chilkoot Indian Association are working together to design and construct the trail along Portage Cove. The trail will make more of the waterfront accessible for pedestrians and cyclists by linking different zones on the waterfront. It will connect Picture Point on the Haines Highway to the cruise ship dock and the Portage Cove recreation area.

Locals were interested to hear what kind of ideas a design firm that specializes in rebuilding natural spaces would have for an area where the natural aspects are intact. Choulika says that she understands Haines is on the verge of possible growth and change.

“Everyone living here wants to make sure that it just continues to be amazing and fabulous even if it grows whether and has more people coming to it either as tourists or people who want to live here. And how is this going to happen? Here’s a chance to think about it. And be in control and think about it. To make it be the best it can be not the worst it can be,” she said.

Choulika says their role that of facilitators to turn community intention into a physical vision for the waterfront.

The trail will be mostly on borough land and some Chilkoot Indian Association Land. Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan says it will not be on any private property.

The borough contracted ProHNS to design a trail along Portage Cove last year. They are funding the project with 57,000 from the Commercial Passenger Vessel Tax. The Chilkoot Indian Association will use federal highway money from the Tribal Transportation Program to construct the trail once it is designed.

Choulika and Curley will give a second presentation Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. at the Haines Borough Public Library.