Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Litter, snow removal concerns for downtown group


Getting a handle on litter and snow shoveling downtown dominated discussion at Monday’s meeting of the Haines Borough Downtown Revitalization Committee.

Committee chair Lenise Henderson Fontenot said making sure Main Street was clean was a “foundational” issue that needed to be addressed ahead of other projects. “Anything we do will be ruined by trash.” She cited cigarette butts, dog droppings and overflowing dumpsters as among ongoing problems.

The committee asked the borough to develop a comprehensive trash plan for the downtown district that Mayor Stephanie Scott said might be a model for the borough. Manager David Sosa cautioned that such a program might be costly. “It will not be inexpensive to do this. I just want that to be clear.”

Revitalization committee members ventured thoughts on how the issue would be best addressed. Member Patty Campbell said the Haines Chamber of Commerce years ago set out several trash containers that were attractive and included flower arrangements on top, but they became too expensive to maintain. “People have to be educated (that) you have to pay to get rid of your trash.”

Committee member Heather Lende said travelers here for a weekend visit shouldn’t have to pay to get rid of a half-dozen empty beer bottles or a small bag of trash. “We want to encourage people putting trash into trash containers.”

Lende said that leaders and residents need to recognize that trash disposal isn’t cheap here. “Part of the problem is that people think it should be cheap.”

Lende raised the issue of clearing sidewalks in winter, saying pedestrians even on Main Street are forced into the street when walks aren’t plowed, which is sometimes the case for shuttered buildings or seasonal businesses. “There are areas where you have to walk out into the street all the time.”

Henderson Fontenot said keeping walks clear amounted to a financial burden for businesses, some of which struggle to just pay the light bill during winter months. “It’s a big economic issue for people facing Main Street.”

Lende, however, said that other northern towns manage to keep walks cleared. Staff was directed to look into methods used elsewhere. “We’re a winter town. Other winter towns manage to do this. If we want a year-round economy, we need to make it easy for people to walk downtown in the winter.”

Mayor Scott said tapping into sidewalk-clearing equipment used by Haines Schools might be one option. “That piece of equipment is within our community.”

Assembly member Debra Schnabel, also endorsed checking into methods used elsewhere. Non-profits and youth groups might be available to do the work, she said. “There are other options” to businesses or the government doing the work, she said.

The group also requested manager Sosa to pursue directional signs from state Department of Transportation leading from ports of entry such as the ferry, cruise ship dock, highway and airport to the “downtown business district.” Henderson Fontenot said such signs are commonplace elsewhere. “To get people downtown, there has to be good signage. Like trash, that’s foundational,” she said.

At Henderson Fontenot’s urging, the group also agreed to a “vision” statement of “a downtown core that is clean, well-maintained and vibrant, and provides a variety of services, retail choices and housing.”


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