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



Making a park of the Haines Borough lot at Main Street and Third Avenue may be a good idea, but we needn’t do it right now.

The lot is already a de facto park, offering a big view, grass, benches and two mountain ash trees that are as pretty with fall colors as any trees in the valley.

It’s a great place for visitors to rest during a day in town. But are residents going to flock to it with picnic baskets on a warm, summer night? Not likely. We typically go to Chilkat River beaches or other more scenic or pristine spots to recreate.

Even the Fort Seward parade grounds, a magnificent spot, is heavily used only a few times a year, and mostly for visitor camping.

The idea of a downtown park is interesting in Haines, resembling as it does the photographic negative of many towns: a tiny settlement hemmed on all sides by large public or open lands, forest and ocean. In terms of acreage, our downtown is a tiny, commercial “park” surrounded by a sprawling near-wilderness.

At Third and Main, let’s see what evolves. If an appealing development offer is made, the assembly should consider a sale. If the spot becomes well-used by residents hungry for a downtown green space, leaders should consider a park.

The history of this issue is instructive.

In 2008, the town debated for months the fate of the former Haines primary school building at Fifth and Main. Some people who opposed its sale argued the property should become a “campus,” or central park. Others wanted it sold to boost private development and generate tax income.

The debate’s upshot was a borough decision to develop a downtown revitalization plan, a $40,000 document that addressed Main Street.

The plan suggested a community green space at Third and Main, but its more ambitious and overarching idea, sometimes forgotten, was to make downtown attractive, to fill in empty lots and to use greenery, art, architecture and walkways to create a cohesive urban core that would make people want to spend time and money there.

Third and Main is a piece of a larger downtown puzzle we have just started putting together. How it fits in is likely to become more apparent once other pieces fall into place.

- Tom Morphet


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