Greetings from Sitka! September was a hectic and busy month. It was capped with a fun vacation to Montana, but I am back in Southeast and ready to hunker down for winter.
First things first, at Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) we welcomed a New Yale Fellow! The Yale Fellows are a group of recent graduates who come to Sitka and serve in a similar capacity to Americorps and other volunteers, for a limited stipend, housing and the experience of working in Sitka. Michelle Huang, joined us as a Yale fellow, she has a background in economics and spent her summer participating in the Bike and Build program. She biked from Providence, RI to California (approx. 4600 miles!) with a group of other graduates. Along the way they stopped in communities and participated in habitat for humanity and other housing organizations’ building efforts. I spent some time last month getting Michelle familiar with the SSP, our projects and meeting project partners in town. She will be working with me at SCS for the next few months and helping out with the Sitka Kitch and young-growth projects.
Speaking of young-growth, We continue to work with Pat Hughes and UAS to get a course centered on the construction of a tiny home up and running. There have been a few snags along the way, but we hope to have them resolved quickly. This week we are meeting with members from the city to discuss some of these challenges and see how we can make the project work and meet all of our intended goals: use locally sourced young-growth timber, provide vocational training and education, highlight innovative design, reduce environmental impact of construction and maintenance, and explore/develop a model for affordable, local housing. I am also working on a project handbook to document this project process. It will also include information on zoning, what types of housing options are available (accessory dwelling, tiny house on wheels, etc.) and which make the most sense for given properties and needs.
The Sitka Kitch project secured a grant for 13,000$ this summer and the renovations are currently under way. In July we held a few classes that were a huge success. This past month we partnered with other organizations and 4H (Thank you Mary at SCS) to organize the “Applooza event”, a community service project. 4H students harvested apples and this coming week will be learning to make applesauce. Most of the applesauce will be donated to the senior center and salvation army. We will continue to work with the church and are currently developing an MOU to outline how and when Sitka Kitch can operate, with a goal to offer classes on a more regular basis and begin working with small businesses to use the space. We applied for a substantial grant through the Local Foods & Marketing Program with the Agricultural Marketing Service within the USDA, and unfortunately were not selected. It was a highly competitive program and ultimately it seems like our project was not the type that they were looking for.
Scott Harris and I have been helping graduate students from the University of Michigan to develop a thesis project with Kruzof Island as a case study site. The students have finished up the field work and are currently working on surveys and data collecting. They had a survey printed and included in the Sitka Sentinel a few weeks ago, but it may also be filled out on-line. They are still seeking survey responses, so if you live in Sitka, or frequent Kruzof Island please feel free to participate http://tinyurl.com/snre-survey . The students will be continuing to work on their project with a final report being prepped in the Spring.
I am planning a meeting with The Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group meeting for late October. This meeting will be in the evening and the primary focus will be an update from the USFS regarding the Kruzof IRMP. Marty Becker will be presenting. Andrew Thoms from SCS will also be sharing info about his work on the TAC (Tongass Advisory Committee). This will be open to the public and is scheduled for Wednesday, October 29th at 6:00 pm.