Just beyond the Juneau Hotel parking lot near the foot of the Douglas Bridge, dump trucks, excavators, bulldozers and rollers are building what will eventually be Bridge Park — home of the whale sculpture.
The whale is slated to be installed in the park at the beginning of July, but a lot of work has to be done before. Fortunately, the mild winter has been good for construction, and Bridge Park is on schedule, according to Sky Stekoll who is overseeing the project for the city’s Engineering Department.
Right now construction crews are working on what Stekoll and Engineering Director Rorie Watt called the “earth works” portion of the project. They are adding almost a half an acre of land to the footprint of the park, which juts out into Gastineau Channel.
Contractors have finished expanding the park to the necessary dimensions, and they are now using gravel to raise the ground to the proper height. After this comes the difficult portion of the project: building the foundation for the life-sized whale sculpture.
“The foundation is actually fairly massive,” Watt said. “This whale is enormous, and it’s breaching out of the water in a manner that is not perfectly plumb.”
Not only does the 16-by-13 foot concrete foundation have to hold a 25-foot, 6-ton bronze whale that doubles as a water feature, it also functions as a vault storing the inner workings of the fountain.
The construction happening right now is the first phase of a five-phase process. This phase will end in mid-July with the installation of the whale, but Bridge Park will be far from complete.
Eventually, the whale will sit in a reflecting pool in a nicely landscaped park. That will not be the case come July though; the landscaping and pool won’t come until next year.
“When the whale comes, it will just be a whale on the foundation with gravel around it, and it will be like that until next spring,” Stekoll said.
The project, which includes building a seawalk to downtown and an artificial island in the channel, will not be complete until some point next summer, Watt said.
McG Constructors Inc., a contractor out of Sitka, won the bid for the first phase of the project, which will cost about $2.5 million. Southeast Earthmovers Inc. and Northern Lights Development Inc. are working on the project as subcontractors.
• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.