New Sitka Community Playground starts to take shape

Construction is progressing on the new Sitka Community Playground project, which is being built on the site of the old Crescent Harbor Playground near the Sitka Sound Science Center.

As of Monday, June 18, most of the playground equipment had been installed by volunteers and a crew from CME Playground Install and Services.

There are still a few items that need installation, plus there is a project to install rubberized tiles around the playground that could take a week or two depending on the weather (if it’s raining heavily, the tile can’t be installed). Project organizers will need 4-6 volunteers per day to help with the tile project, and volunteers can register using the project’s SignUpGenius website. The site is still a construction zone, so project organizers ask parents and kids not to use the new playground until everything is finished.

Parking for volunteers is at the Crescent Harbor parking lot, the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center parking lot, and former Stratten Library, to avoid impacting events at the Sitka Sound Science Center.

The Sitka Community Playground was a community wellness project from the Sitka Health Summit. The goal was to build the first American Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant playground in Sitka.

The grand opening of the new Sitka Community Playground is scheduled for Wednesday, July 4. For more details about the project, check out the Sitka Community Playground group on Facebook, or contact Bridget Hitchcock or Kay Turner at Oceanside Therapy Center at 747-1771.

A slideshow of photos from the new playground is posted below.

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COASST program to train Sitka beach walkers for seabird mortality surveys

Help make a difference for the environment by collecting beached bird data for the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST). COASST is a citizen science program involving participants in the collection of high quality data used in natural resource management and conservation decisions.
Beached bird participants systematically count and identify bird carcasses to help determine baselines for seabird mortality along the North Pacific coast. No prior experience is necessary, just a commitment to survey a specific beach (about three-quarters of a mile) each month.
If you are interested in participating, visit our website to learn more about our program and join us our training session.
Sunday July 1
Noon to 6 p.m.
Karsh Classroom
834 Lincoln Street
Sitka, AK 99835
There is no charge to attend, but we ask participants to provide a $20 refundable deposit if you would like to take home a COASST survey toolkit. Beach surveys are best conducted in groups of two or more – please come with a survey partner in mind or plan to join a team during training. Training activities take place indoors. Please plan to bring a sack lunch for our mid-day break.
RSVP to COASST participation coordinator Jackie Lindsey at or 206-221-6893. If you’re unable to attend, please email us to let us know that you’d like to be contacted about future trainings near you.
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Sitka Sound Science Center visiting scientist to lead bird walk at Sitka National Historical Park

Ornithologist Allison Nelson, the Scientist in Residency Fellow at the Sitka Sound Science Center this summer, will lead a bird walk on the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park on Saturday, June 9.

Participants should meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Sitka Sound Science Center’s Mill Building for coffee and bagels, with the walk taking place from 8-9 a.m. at Sitka National Historical Park. Allison has been focusing her research on the hermit thrush, a migratory songbird native to Sitka. Allison will discuss birds and her research. Families and young birders are encouraged to attend.

For more information, contact Tory O’Connell at the Sitka Sound Science Center, 747-8878, Ext. 7, or This event is co-sponsored by the Sitka Sound Science Center, Sitka National Historical Park and Sitka Conservation Society.

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Kids Fishing Day set for Saturday, June 9, at Swan Lake in Sitka

Kids, get your lucky fishing hats and join the party. The annual Kids Fishing Day is set for Saturday, June 9, at Swan Lake here in Sitka.

The lake recently was stocked with wild rainbow trout, and with fish measuring from 6-12 inches long. These fish are mixing in with the normal cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden that normally live in Swan Lake.

Kids Fishing Day has prizes for kids ages 2-12, who can fish from shore or a boat. Registration opens at 8 a.m., and fishing starts at 9 a.m. Prizes will be awarded about 12:30-1 p.m. (must be present to win a prize). In recent years there usually have been about 100 young anglers participating, and as many as 50 boats have been counted out on the lake. There will be hot dogs and chips for the kids, as well as a booth where the kids can make fish prints.

No fishing license is needed for kids age 16-younger (those ages 13-16 aren’t eligible to compete). Kids may fish from shore or on a boat, but all participants must wear a personal flotation device. Kids needing PFDs can borrow them from one of the Kids Don’t Float lockers at any of Sitka’s harbors.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has liberalized the fishing regulations for the Saturday of the fishing derby, which means kids can use bait, and catch up to two trout of any size (normally, only trout between 11-22 inches can be caught). Click this link for more info about the Kids Fishing Day relaxed regulations for Saturday (note, press release is from 2014).

This event is sponsored by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the USDA Forest Service-Sitka Ranger Station, and the Sitka Rotary Club. For more information, contact Joe Serio of the U.S. Forest Service at 747-6671.

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National Park Service, Sitka Tribe of Alaska inaugurate historic partnership at Sitka National Historical Park

WORKING TOGETHER: The funding for a new partnership between the National Park Service and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska was officially approved by Congress on May 7. Sitka Tribe of Alaska employees, dressed in traditional red and black, will provide tours and presentations at Sitka National Historical Park and the Russian Bishop’s House throughout the summer. They also will provide educational resources for Sitka schools on behalf of the park year-round. From left are Louise Brady of STA, Angie Richman of SNHP, and Tristan Guevin of STA. (Photo provided by Sitka National Historical Park)

The partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) has now reached a new level of collaboration.

On May 7, Congress completed its review of an Annual Funding Agreement (“AFA”) under which STA now officially provides visitor services for Sitka National Historical Park. This agreement underscores our close government to government relationship between the NPS and STA as well as embraces the spirit of the Department of Interior Secretarial Priority No. 4, “Ensuring tribal sovereignty means something.”

The new agreement funds STA to hire park interpreters and other visitor service positions working under the guidance of the park’s Division of Interpretation and Education. STA has hired eight staff members who are providing tours and interpretive talks at the Totem unit and the Russian Bishop’s House, managing visitor services for those two park sites, and delivering education services on behalf of the park for Sitka’s schools.

“We are excited to begin this new and significant partnership,” said park Superintendent David Elkowitz. “Our team put in a huge effort with planning, orientation and training to help STA’s employees hit the ground running. We believe this is the most comprehensive such agreement in NPS history.”

For STA, a federally-recognized tribal government, the May 7 kick-off of the AFA marks the culmination of several years of planning and discussions with the NPS.

“We are so pleased to see the vision of our Elders established by the Tribal Council under our former chairman, Woody Widmark, come to fruition,” said STA General Manager Lisa Gassman. “Under the guidance of our current chairman Kathy Hope Erickson and STA Tribal Council, we now have tribal employees providing tours and other services to visitors on what is historically tribal land. This is an exciting step for STA and our citizens.”

STA employees, wearing traditional red and black colors and the STA seal, will provide tours, information and assistance throughout the summer visitor season and provide park interpretive operations throughout the year. “It is wonderful to be able to hire so many employees from the local community and have more in-depth cultural content shared through our interpretive programs” said David Elkowitz.

For more information about this partnership, please contact David Elkowitz at 747-0111 or Lisa Gassman at 747-7380.

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Fly Fishing Film Tour makes a stop in Sitka on Friday, May 18

The 12th annual Fly Fishing Film Tour (aka F3T) is coming to Sitka, with a stop at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 18, at Harrigan Centennial Hall for folks interested in fly fishing or films featuring the great outdoors. Sitka is one of 175 cities in 18 countries that will host the F3T this year.

With an emphasis on the stories, characters and fisheries that help make up the vast world of fly fishing, the 2018 F3T will take you from Michigan to Honduras, from Wyoming to Greenland, from the mind of child to the heart of a musician, from the edge of your seat to the end of the earth and back. The tour includes a film or two about Alaska.

In addition to showcasing world-class fly fishing films, The F3T is dedicated to supporting the local fly shops and conservation groups that form the backbone of our sport’s educational and environmental efforts. Discount F3T tickets are available at more than 150 fly shops across the country (in Sitka, contact Sitka Fish Outfitters at 738-4011).

A portion of those ticket sales go directly to support the conservation work that keeps our favorite fisheries intact, healthy and available for us all to enjoy. In 2017 F3T events raised over $500,000 for conservation and fishing-related charities. In addition to fundraising, we’re dedicated to providing a platform that builds awareness and support of groups like Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Wild Steelhead Coalition, Bonefish Tarpon Trust, Utah Stream Access Coalition, Stop Pebble Mine and many more.

Tickets are available for $20 at Sitka Fish Outfitters or Old Harbor Books. Proceeds benefit the Sitka Gymnastics Academy. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a variety of gear on display and a chance to talk about fly fishing before the film starts promptly at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Jamie Steinson at 738-4011 or Sitka Fish Outfitters.

• 2018 Fly Fishing Film Tour Highlights

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Sitka National Historical Park switches to summer hours on Tuesday, May 8

Beginning Tuesday, May 8, Sitka National Historical Park will transition to its summer hours of operation. This year the Visitor Center and the Russian Bishop’s House will have the same hours of operation which will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ranger-led interpretive programs will be held daily at the Visitor Center, with topics focusing on the stories and legends of the totem poles, the Battle of 1804, sea otter ecology and other aspects of the park’s natural and cultural history. The park’s 12-minute film will be played on request. Master artisans will be demonstrating in the art studios on days when cruise ships are in town.

The Russian Bishop’s House Ranger-led programs of the upstairs residence will be offered every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour, with the first program beginning at 8:30 a.m. and the last tour beginning at 4:00 p.m. The first floor hosts a self-guided museum and video that are available anytime during open hours.

Park trails are now open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Cyclists are reminded that bicycles must be walked on park trails. A bicycle rack is provided at the visitor center for those wishing to explore the rest of the park on foot. Visitors are also welcome to walk dogs on park trails, but must keep their pets on a leash at all times and dispose of pet waste properly. Park staff appreciate your cooperation with these important park policies.

For additional information, visit the park’s webpage at or call the Visitor Center at (907) 747-0110.


About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more about Sitka National Historical Park at or visit the Facebook page

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