February 17, 2011 |

Letnikof users wary of tour using float

Citing concerns expressed by other users, members of the Haines Borough’s Harbor Advisory Committee on Tuesday asked for more details about requested tour boat use of a boat launch float at Letnikof Cove.

Committee members also said they would support only north-side use of the float, to avoid conflicts with non-commercial users launching vessels on the float’s south side.

Member Dean Risley said he was okay with tour boat use, on a trial basis, but only if the company could tie its vessel between pilings on the north side. "If you can’t, you’re blocking user access and that’s not good, even for a minute."

Chilkat Guides is seeking a borough permit to use the dock as part of a tour, and company representatives said it’s difficult to say how many dockings it may need there, as the tours haven’t been marketed.

Operations manager Andy Hedden characterized the company’s situation as a chicken-egg dilemma: It can’t market a tour without a borough permit, but before marketing, it’s difficult to gauge demand for the tour. "Without having advertised it, we don’t know that there’s going to be any interest in it at all."

The company plans to use a 40-foot, enclosed vessel purchased primarily to supplement its water taxi service from Skagway, Hedden said. There’s time for a tour each Wednesday morning and afternoon, and the company also is interested in charters there, he said.

Hedden described the dockings as "touch-and-go," saying they’d last only about 10 minutes and that buses depositing and picking up visitors there wouldn’t necessarily need to wait for vessels in the facility’s parking lot.

Fisherman and committee member Mike Mackowiak asked for more specific numbers, citing the possibility of congestion there. "Overwhelmingly, the community likes things the way they are and nobody wants that ramp to look like Skagway. Also, not everybody is great backing their trailer down there in a big crowd of people."

"It’s a little unfair to say, ‘Let us in.’ A lot of the concern of the community is, ‘How big is this foot in the door?’" Mackowiak said.

Member Bill Rostad said the application was "awful vague." "It allows my mind to wander."

Joanne Waterman, who serves as liaison to the assembly, said the company’s reputation was its strong suit. "We like you. We trust you. But it’s not a ‘your word and a handshake’ world anymore. We need some meat and potatoes."

The committee agreed that tying up to the dock there wasn’t a good option, as the ramp is steep and that action on the floats makes it less safe than the ramp float.

Resident Mike Armour said there was a serious congestion problem at the site already and limits were needed on leaving trailers there.

Pointing to the Chilkoot River corridor, Lutak resident Richard Buck voiced concern over growth of tours. "They all come in saying, ‘We won’t cause inconvenience.’ It grows and grows and grows until it’s unstoppable."

Fisherman and committee member Norm Hughes said he had "no reservations" about Chilkat Guides’ use of the float, and said problems arise only when users aren’t courteous of others. "I have to share the harbors with all the other users. I don’t have a problem because they all have to share with me."

Chamber of Commerce president Ned Rozbicki spoke for the tours’ use of the facility, noting that a Haines-based fast-ferry company had used the dock there for tours for a number of years. Congestion wasn’t a problem at that time, he said.

Last year was the first full season for the ramp float.