Volunteers in Wrangell are erecting a monument to those lost at sea. The project had its impromptu, recent ground-breaking at the Southeast community’s Heritage Harbor.

That’s thanks to fundraising efforts, land offered for lease by the city and volunteers. Volunteers like Brennan Eagle.

 “It’s all stuff that shows people that we’re serious, the people in the city of Wrangell want this built,” Eagle says.

Eagle has been a commercial fisherman for 40 years. He’s also overseeing fundraising as the group’s treasurer.

“Wrangell Mariners’ Memorial had an offer of a donation to have the work done out there, and we decided to go ahead and get started with it,” Eagle says.

The sea is a dangerous place to work. National statistics recorded at least 179 fatalities among Alaska’s commercial fishermen since 2000. Tragedy struck Wrangell when 38-year-old skipper Ryan Miller died after his shrimp boat capsized in Clarence Strait in 2005.

Eagle said a large check from an anonymous donor also helped get the project to the halfway mark.

But the group says it still needs to raise $75,000 to get to the finish line. Plans call for a 100-foot long corridor of steel walls leading to a pavilion overlooking the harbor.

The walls will be adorned with the names and stories of Wrangell mariners.

Local donations so far add up to $45,000. Eagle says the group will have an auction in January and a dinner in the spring, just like last year.

The memorial will celebrate Wrangell’s historic relationship to the sea. And it’s not just fishing: from tugboats to transportation to tourism, maritime industries have helped shape Wrangell’s development as a community. Construction could be completed as early as June.

In Wrangell, I’m June Leffler.