Pete Danelski's op-ed piece, published in the Kodiak Daily Mirror 30 December 2009
My first experience at Fort Abercrombie State Park occurred in the late ‘60s after I got off the ferry and looked for a place to sleep. I was unemployed and looking for work in the fishing industry. On my first night in Kodiak I found shelter in the main bunker at the entrance of the park. It was as beautiful and as welcoming a place then as it still is now, albeit much more improved today.
I had the good fortune of purchasing a small cabin and property bordering the Parkside entrance to Fort Abercrombie Park in 1972. By then it had become a state park. Although the trails were unimproved and old engine blocks and other debris laid rusting and rotting on the park’s trails, the park’s natural beauty continues to be as revitalizing to me today as it was back then, when hardly anyone used the park’s trails.
In my earlier days I used to jog regularly through the park. It was a rare day when I encountered another kindred soul on my jogs. Today I am content to just walk the various trails where I almost always encounter several people enjoying a stroll through the park. The trails are more carefully maintained and user friendly than they were when I first began to use them. It pleases me to see many other people enjoying a walk in a safe and carefully preserved natural environment.
A walk through Fort Abercrombie State Park is a great natural experience. Hopefully this experience will be shared by ever increasing numbers of people in the future. Since I am not here during the summer months, because I fish on the other side of the island, I can only imagine how much the park must be used for recreation in the summer and how crowded it might become in the future.
I was not able to attend the public meeting that was held on Dec. 14, but I have learned since then that there was much public objection and criticism raised at the meeting regarding the proposed implementation of the already approved plan to create a parking lot and a bus turnaround, funded by the state, in the public camp site area located on the left side of the road before the crest of the hill where the Military History Museum, the restored gunnery placements and one of Kodiak’s most panoramic views can be most easily and safely accessed and enjoyed by the public.
It never seems to fail in Kodiak that objections are always raised in the eleventh hour to a development plan process that has been totally transparent from its inception, more than three years in the making, and where public input and comment were invited and encouraged well in advance of the plan’s approval by the advisory board. I have reviewed the mission and goal statements that relate to Fort Abercrombie State Park and the public planning process that eventually approved this project. The Miller Point Access Fact Sheet and a blueprint of the project site plan can be viewed on the Internet here.
In my opinion, Kodiak is extremely fortunate to have a park advisory board comprised of members who have a reputation for being dedicated stewards of the environment. I know for certain that they are totally committed to the preservation of our local environment and the history of Fort Abercrombie. Kodiak also is fortunate to have a representative in Juneau who can make things happen when it comes to procuring state funds for important park improvements like the Miller Point Access Project.
I wholeheartedly support this project because I want as many people as possible, especially our honored citizens and the handicapped, to safely and easily access Abercrombie’s rich history and scenic natural beauty like I have been able to do these past 40 years. I support this project with full faith that the park’s advisory board has dutifully performed its due diligence in moving this project forward. I am also confident that the advisory board has also imposed the strictest environmental standards possible in the planned development of the very small park area affected. Kodiak should applaud, not criticize, the board’s and Alan Austerman’s proactive efforts to address the future needs of the park with a plan that will improve the quality and safety of the Fort Abercrombie State Park experience for the general public and future generations. We all know that a much more crowded future is inevitable.
Pete Danelski Sr. is a longtime Kodiak resident and fisherman.