Continued Support for Improved Access to Gravina Island
March 10, 2015
Ketchikan Gateway Borough
1900 First Avenue
Ketchikan, AK 99901
Honorable Members of the Assembly and Mayor Landis,
I write this letter to express the desire of the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce that for summer 2015 ferry service between Ketchikan and Gravina Island be restored to its former frequency of 15-minute intervals.
Our Chamber works hard to promote regional economic growth, a climate that is good for both businesses and their employees, and a quality of life that attracts year-round residents. Community access and opportunity for exploration and expansion are necessarily prerequisites to our finding success in any of these areas, and it is our firm belief that growth, investment, and relocation are fostered by the sense that Ketchikan is “open for business.”
The summer months are undoubtedly Ketchikan’s busiest; to not maximize the ferry service between Ketchikan and Gravina Island at this time is, in our estimation, a missed opportunity. Why not present our community’s best face to the visitors, seasonal workers, and future residents who choose summertime to come to Alaska? Our community’s limited access to Gravina Island and the Ketchikan International Airport is already a burden. We should be doing all that we can within our power to lessen this burden and facilitate access to and from Ketchikan.
Beyond the airport, Gravina Island presents Ketchikan residents and visitors alike with access to recreational opportunities and land prime for development. As it stands, there is little incentive to improve these lands neither to expand our local tax base nor to enjoy what our region has to offer due to the issue of limited and inconvenient Gravina access. With broadly-supported developments such as the Vallenar Bay Road, State of Alaska timber sales, and an ore processing mill for the Niblack mine looming as very real potentials on Gravina Island, it makes sense that now is the time to take another, harder look at the issue of transportation to and from Gravina.
Especially today, there are clear and easily understood reasons for ferry service between Ketchikan and Gravina Island being limited. As a business organization, we understand the need for smart spending and respect and applaud budget cuts, particularly in this fiscal climate. Public transportation, however, is a service that only government can provide, and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s continuous support for the Alaska Marine Highway, the Inter-Island Ferry Authority, and their own transit department is a testament to this fact and a locus of mutual understanding. Access to Gravina is a public good which transcends transportation and realizes values from sound quality of life to sustained economic development.
Even though the ferry to and from Gravina Island may never achieve cost recovery at the fare box, the indirect economic benefits to our community’s economy far outweigh historical operating losses. Our request is that you muster your resources and authority to overcome the obstacles facing us as Alaskans to run a ferry to and from Gravina Island in summer 2015 at 15-minute intervals. If this cannot be achieved, we encourage you to facilitate or support through policy a water taxi service (or services), beginning with a Notice of Sources Sought. Ketchikan—and our guests—will thank you for it.
Chelsea J. Goucher, Executive Director
Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce
P: (907) 225-3184
C: (907) 220-2133