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South Pt. Higgins to become park? Planning commission to mull options

Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Public Works Department is recommending that South Point Higgins Beach be declared a recreation asset, and the borough Planning Commission will be considering that option along with public input during its meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the White Cliff Building. It will then pass along its recommendation to the Borough Assembly.

The borough currently owns and/or operates and maintains a number of designated recreational properties. Per borough code, acceptance of operation and maintenance responsibility for parks, open spaces and public crean spaces — otherwise known as recreation areas — can only be made under the condition that the Assembly determines the recreational area is consistent with the borough’s current comprehensive plan, parks and recreation plan and provides a public benefit, according to Public Works information.

That information states that declaring the beach a recreation asset would be keeping in line with the borough’s parks and recreation plan for a few reasons. If South Point Higgins Beach is to become a park, the Borough would manage the park for cleanliness, utility and cost effectiveness; and control litter and solid waste, collecting it on a regular and continuous basis.

According to Public Works information, garbage service is already provided by the Borough, Coastbusters and other volunteers.

South Point Higgins Beach, the information goes on to say, is located in a low-density residential neighborhood and is largely of rural character with few amenities. The beach has one single bear-proof garbage can; no lighting, potable water or sewer service; and no benches, tables or fire pits. However, a pit-toilet or outhouse has been recommended for construction in 2022 as a capital improvement project.

Prior action declaring the beach as a recreation asset failed in 2010 because of high estimated annual maintenance costs. The costs were estimated at $4,000 a year, with the potential for greater expense.

Given the limited services at the beach, the actual expense has come in much lower than anticipated — about $1,000 per year. This is estimated from the operations and maintenance labor currently provided by public works and parks and fields employees, as routine cleanup of the uplands is currently performed by these crews, according to Public Works. This work totals 45 minutes per week.

The current maintenance needs are expected to remain constant in the future, although other projects at the beach, such as the outhouse, might increase maintenance costs.

Additionally, the parks and recreation plan states that the borough should meet the need for diverse outdoor recreation in the urban setting, with all low-density, roaded residential neighborhoods being served by a park within three miles. Public Works information states that South Point Higgins Beach is about three miles from both Point Higgins Elementary School and Totem Bight State Park.

On Tuesday, the planning department will review the proposed recreational area and determine consistency with all zoning, land use requirements and the comprehensive plan, according to Public Works.

The Planning Commission will review the proposed recreational area and provide a recommendation to the Assembly, by resolution, regarding the proposed recreation area.

“The Planning Commission shall consider public input, the public benefit, appropriate and adequate infrastructure and amenities; and the impacts on surrounding properties,” Public Works information states.