KAKE, Alaska — The southeast Alaska community of Kake is trying to save its historic Keku Cannery.
The cannery was named one of the nation's most endangered historic places earlier this year by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Gary Williams, the executive director of the Organized Village of Kake, fears the run-down building will collapse. He said if it comes down, it would be a disaster, with asbestos getting into clam beds and affecting subsistence fishing.
Williams recently guided some visitors — including a representative for Sen. Mark Begich and the governor's rural affairs adviser — on a tour of the shuttered cannery, with the group navigating fallen steel and asbestos dust. The cannery closed more than 30 years ago and is filled with old machinery and vehicles. Water-damaged business ledgers, boxes of files and unused salmon roe boxes serve as reminders of a time when the cannery was the lifeblood of the town, the Juneau Empire reported (http://bit.ly/1bMT8eh).
The National Trust said the cannery is worth saving because of the role it played in developing Alaska's canning industry during the first half of the 20th Century.
"You talk to some of the elders and they have such great memories of working here," Williams said. "For many decades it was such an important part of the community. There's no reason — if it was saved — that it couldn't become that again."
The tribe has worked with the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office and an engineering firm to get a structural assessment of the building. Williams said the tribe has been working to secure funds to save the building, including from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It also is looking at whether it could get Department of Transportation funding. Fallout from asbestos, if the building falls, would close down a main artery in town, he said.
At a minimum Williams hopes to see the building stabilized. At best, he would like to see it become a tourist stop where residents can put up shops.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com