Petersburg is asking for input on the conceptual plan for remote dock improvements

The dock and float at Papkes Landing, 10 miles south of Petersburg, was built in 1961. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg’s Port Authority last week got its first glimpse of a conceptual design for park, dock and ramp improvements that could take place at Papke’s Landing about 10 miles south of Petersburg. The property is still owned by the State and many questions and concerns remain regarding funding for improvements or maintenance of this property. But the district is seeking feedback on a long-term vision for the area.

Papke’s Landing is used by remote residents for access to homes and recreation cabins. It is also used by boaters from Petersburg and several nearby lodges that offer sport fishing in the warmer months.

A nearby resident, John Murgas, emphasized the importance of the location for transportation and trade.

“It’s a deep-water port,” Murgas said. “It is very well protected from the weather and has minimal tidal currents. All of this combined really makes it an ideal place for public funding from all the different programs available.”

The Petersburg Convention last year agreed to spend $35,920 on concept art for Papke’s landing, along with a boat ramp on southern Mitkof Island.

Engineer Alan Murph of Harai and Associates presented the draft plan for Papke’s to the Port Authority this month. The concept includes several new stone-filled parking areas, a new mooring line and gangway, and a new concrete launch pad with floats. This new ramp would be directly south of the existing ramp. Plans could also include a public toilet and a new port maintenance building.

The preliminary cost estimate for the project puts the cost of construction at around $6.4 million, although it could be done in phases. Some local leaders are hoping federal infrastructure funding or other grant money could pay for it.

Municipal Assembly member Dave Kensinger uses the dock to get to Petersburg from his home on neighboring Kupreanof Island. He said the dock was in poor condition and was long overdue for modernization.

“I think what’s really changed is usage frequency,” Kensigner said. “And what I’m seeing is the amount of usage out there that’s amazing at certain times of the year. And it’s not people who live in the Papke area. Very few people around Papke moor a boat up there. Most of the people who seem to moor and leave boats are from the city. And the other problem we have out there is a vehicle dump, the parking lot out there.”

Kensinger said another change is the amount of state and university land that has been sold in the area and the new development that has taken place. The dock at Papke was one of three remote docks offered to Petersburg by the Alaska Department of Transportation in 2016. The two sides did not agree on the terms of this transfer, but last year the district assembly expressed interest in renewing negotiations with the DOT. Other authorities are also involved. The land on the shore is owned by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, while the US Forest Service leases state land for the boat ramp. But the municipality has bought some lots from the state to use for future parking.

District Manager Steve Giesbrecht was interested in taking ownership of anything that would require a lease with the state.

“We want this to be resolved before we take over the dock,” Giesbrecht said. “We want the DOT and DNR to work together and resolve this and say give us the land. The municipality would own the Wadden Sea and all the property that DNR has down there. I just got back from talking to you. it’s gonna be tough DOT strives to make this possible. DNR doesn’t want to do anything other than their current rules. So it will probably go a little higher up to the governor’s office. We’ll see what we can do.”

Local guides have also historically been wary of paying for site maintenance due to the expected costs of snow removal, parking, and permit enforcement. That will add $100,000 or more to the Port Authority’s budget.

Brandon Allison recently purchased Majestic Eagle Lodge, one of the nearby sport fishing operations, and figured users wouldn’t expect free upgrades.

“I’d be open to the possibility of liking us as lodges or whoever over there pays a fee to be able to use that, tending the property over there to store cars that’s over there or use the ramp and to redo a dock,” Allison said. “It’s certainly fundamental to our lifestyle out there.”

The Petersburg port authority currently does not have the money to build improvements at Papke or to maintain an additional facility. Its reserves are earmarked for a port dredging project planned for this year and guides are also keen to explore the potential for a new port at Scow Bay.

Port CEO Bob Martin called the concept a good start for Papke’s.

“But I’m sure the public has all sorts of ideas,” Martin added. “We haven’t even started this process yet. But I think it’s a great idea, a vision of what could happen,” he said.

If the community can clear the ownership barrier, they would still have to pay for all engineering and design work before it would be ready for construction.

The board voted to support Papke’s modernization concept while soliciting public input on the drawings. Members of the community meeting this month also encouraged users to provide feedback to them or the board.

The concept is published on the municipality’s website.

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