Juneau, AK (September 30, 2016) – Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Central Council) and the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) finalized a 35-year lease agreement this week for the development of a cultural immersion park on the city-owned property located at 4400 Thane Road. Although the land lease was awarded to Central Council last year, the lease had to go through an approval process which required a conditional use permit issued by the Juneau Planning Commission, review by the CBJ Docks and Harbors and Assembly Lands Committee, and finally an ordinance issued by the CBJ Assembly authorizing the Juneau’s Port Director to lease the land.
The next step in the project will be to complete a feasibility study on the property. Central Council received a United States Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant in the amount of $83,901 to complete the study which will determine if the current structure can be renovated and repaired or will need to be entirely replaced. The assessment will also provide the Tribe with a comprehensive report on the viability of the project, anticipated costs, and sustainability.
“This project is a long-term commitment of the Tribe,” said Business & Economic Development Manager Myrna Gardner. “It’s a commitment to commerce and workforce development, job creation, our local economy, public and private partners, and creating opportunities for our people. This project is about lifting our people up and being a good neighbor and member of the community.”
In addition to the land lease, Central Council also recently secured a sublease on an adjacent property through a private sector business, AJT Mining Properties owned by AVISTA Corporation. The additional property will expand the cultural immersion park’s demonstration area and will allow for carvers to work inside on projects throughout the year.
The cultural immersion park will include a building retrofitted with a traditional long house façade that will house a restaurant and gift shop. Tourists will be able to enjoy traditional Native foods like blueberries, salmon, and Hudson Bay tea while watching Native dance performances. The gift shop will have authentic Native art and souvenirs available for sale. Visitors will also be taken on guided tours with interactive demonstrations of the traditional art of basket weaving and carving of canoes, paddles, masks, and totem poles. The restaurant will be closed for the winter, but the carving shed will remain open to provide a space for Native artists to carve and weave, hone their crafts, and host educational classes on metal and wood carving, basket weaving, form line design, and language.
“The cultural immersion park is a powerful instrument that will promote cultural awareness and preservation,” said President Richard Peterson. “It will not only perpetuate our Tlingit and Haida cultures, it will be a focal point in our community where residents and visitors can discover the richness of our cultures, ask questions, and broaden their awareness that our culture is still very much alive.”
Gunalchéesh, Háw’aa (Thank You) to the City & Borough of Juneau, Thane Neighborhood Association, and all Juneau community members who support the Tlingit and Haida Cultural Immersion Park and have been instrumental in moving this project forward.