The Haines Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) board has promoted assistant director Cindy Zuluaga to the interim executive director position after Lee Hart resigned in early December.

Zuluaga Jimenez worked for HEDC in 2020 as a research analyst and later helped the Juneau Economic Development Corporation manage federal pandemic aid grants to small businesses in the Capital City. She has a masters degree in ocean and coastal resource management from Middlebury Institute and worked in Peru studying the impacts of tourism on rural economies.

She said her previous work in Peru “delves right into (HEDC’s) current big project,” which will involve partnerships with federal agencies including the EPA and National Park Service. HEDC received a grant to create a master plan for an outdoor recreation economy in Haines that includes a master trail plan.

“In our last community workshop for our five-year comp plan, the community overwhelmingly voted that one of their top priorities that HEDC move toward is outdoor recreation and the opportunities it offers,” Zuluaga Jimenez said. “We will have some master trail planners coming in May to look at the landscape, to look where they could go and earmark them for the future.”

Partner agencies will also assess and evaluate current trails.

Zuluaga Jimenez is also analyzing data from the Haines Housing Survey that yielded responses from 600 participants. She said so far they’ve found that the majority of the community identifies as homeowners, “which is the standard in rural communities throughout the nation.” She also said they estimated a range of income percentages going toward housing.

“Anything over 30 percent is considered insecure housing or unaffordable housing,” she said. “One of the really cool data that’s coming out of the survey is that we identified, for those in the population who are looking to purchase, what kind of home they’re looking for such as one bedroom or two bedroom. I hope that future developers in the area will take note of this.”

The data analysis is expected to be released in February, she said. Other projects include a regional energy cost analysis, a feasibility study on a local homebuilder program and working with the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center with a focus on cultural tourism.

HEDC board members are Darsi Culbeck, Chip Lende, Scott Doddridge and Sylvia Heinz. The board plans to host an open house on First Friday, Feb. 3 in their new office at the Gateway Building.

Zuluaga Jimenez said the public can reach out with questions or for more information at [email protected] or by calling 907-766-3130.