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Ketchikan appreciates its port for several reasons, and not all pertain to cruise ships.
The Ketchikan City Council is dealing with how to handle expansion of its docking space in order to accommodate the larger ships coming to call and expected to be calling in the near future.
The choices range from keeping the project in-house to accepting a request for proposals, allowing the cruise industry to expand and manage the city’s three berths.
All of that speaks to dollars in the millions, and, of course, millions of ship passengers.
This might be the most critical decision the council will make in its history. It affects all present and future generations in the city.
We all have to live with whatever the council decides.
The operative word here is “live.” This is where our population lives, most of us year-round.
We greatly value the cruise ships and the tourism industry. The recognition of their worth cannot be downplayed. Together, they are an economic engine for the community, which contributes greatly to the quality of life.
But, at the same time, the docks are used by other industries and locals regularly.
The commercial fishing industry for one has been known to tie up tenders and fishing boats at the docks. Commercial ship operators carrying everything but tourists are another cohort choosing to dock a spell at the port.
Most important is the number of us locals and our guests who enjoy the dock for early morning exercise — for us and our pets.
Others choose the lighter cruise ship days to take walks, bicycle ride, skate or simply sit on the benches. When the ships begin departing, the number of locals on the docks increases.
Of course, this summer, with its inarguably beautiful days, prompted big turnouts. More than one sport fisher cast a line off the docks as the sun sets.
Perhaps most demonstrative of the local sense of dock ownership was a recent dinner party there. The party-goers brought their own tables and dinner, enjoying a warm evening in what earlier in the day would have been the domain of ships and thousands of their passengers.
As the council proceeds with its port decision, preserving local dock use should be supreme. We’re willing and anxious to share, but not at the expense of being fenced out or in any way being barred from spending local exercise and leisure time on the docks.
We love our docks and appreciate the city’s effort in their past and future development. We’re out there every day showing that gratitude.