MARKET BOUNTY – Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Hannah Green, center, sells produce Saturday during the third market of the summer season. The next market will be held Saturday at ANB Founders Hall from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Sitka Farmers Market was recently included on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Lake Closer to Being Named for Lost Dog

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

The effort to name a small body of water “Luna Lake” moved a step closer this week to becoming a reality.

A small lake at the head of Redoubt Lake is seen in the days after it was formed in 2013. (Sentinel file photo by James Poulson)

 

The approximately one-acre lake was created by the May 12, 2013, landslide that blocked a stream to Redoubt Lake about 12 miles south of Sitka.

Sitka residents Kevin Knox and his wife Maggie Gallin submitted the proposal to name the new lake after their border collie “Luna,” which was lost in the landslide.

Knox and Gallin, who had been camping at the U.S. Forest Service cabin next to Redoubt Lake, barely escaped the landslide, which destroyed the cabin. They searched for Luna but the dog was never found. After observing that the landslide debris was creating a new body of water adjacent to Redoubt Lake, the couple decided to investigate having it officially named Luna Lake.

On Monday, Knox received word that the Alaska Historical Commission at its Feb. 25 meeting voted to approve his proposal. It goes next to the U.S. Board on Geographical Names.

Knox described his reaction to the commission’s decision as “bittersweet, in a way.”

“Obviously it doesn’t change what happened to us and certainly doesn’t bring Luna back but it’s a nice tribute to memorialize the event,” he said today.

Joan Antonson, deputy state historic preservation officer, said the U.S. Board on Geographical Names usually approves the commission’s recommendation.

“We have had some where they’ve disagreed, but we work quite well together,” she said.

Antonson said it is rare to name a geographical feature after a lost pet, and guidelines discourage it. But in this case, there was little opposition from the public, there was a show of local support for the new name and the lake hadn’t already been named. She said there were comments about subsistence use in the area, but most activity was at the opposite end of Redoubt lake.

“It’s important to see there’s local support,” she said. “There is local support, and not a great deal of objection.” 

Demonstrated support included an online petition and a resolution of support from the Sitka City and Borough Assembly, Antonson said. Knox said he also contacted the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the STA Cultural Resources Committee, and Sitka Historic Preservation Commission, all of which supported the request.

Knox submitted his proposal for the name about six months after the slide, but was told he needed to wait at least five years under the guidelines. He reactivated his application last May.

Antonson said in the intervening years Knox and Gallin hadn’t wavered in their wish for naming the lake.

“There was still some passion, which we sensed,” she said. 

Knox last saw Luna as she nipped at his heels while he and Gallin ran away from the path of the slide. The couple escaped the direct path, but ended up in the lake under a tangle of trees that had been swept off the mountainside. The cabin had disappeared under tons of mud and debris. Searches in the days and weeks that followed turned up no trace of Luna.

The slide blocked a stream, and ended up creating a lake measuring about an acre. 

The standard for naming a geographical location is high, but it is allowed in the categories of “local usage,” “descriptive names,” “Alaska native names,” “commemorative names,” “historical names” “name changes,” “names in wilderness areas’ and “associative names.” 

Knox spoke under Persons to be Heard at the meeting, by teleconference, helping clarify some of the information provided to the state Commission, and answered questions.

Antonson estimates the Alaska Historical Commission considers about a dozen requests for naming geographic features every year, including five at the most recent commission meeting on Feb. 25. All but one at the last meeting were approved and forwarded to the U.S. Board on Geographical Names, she said.

 

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