The Southern Kenai Peninsula Parks Advisory Board wants more walking and biking trails. The members have been making plans for months and now the board needs public input.
The board is proposing 65 miles of trails from Kasilof south. There are proposed walking trails in places like the Johnson Lake and Ninilchik River recreational areas, as well as spots around Stariski Creek and the Anchor River.
Some trails are right up against the Sterling Highway while others, like the proposed 1.2 miles near the Anchor River, would go the length of Beach Road. Darrel Williams is on the advisory board and grew up on the Kenai Peninsula.
“When I was young, the trails were really incidental. People were able to use them for a variety of things: to hunt, to fish, to recreate. As the Kenai Peninsula has changed over the last 40 years, the trail system has become more like the sidewalks…. I really think it’s time that we can try to consolidate efforts… and try to make them better,” he said.
The proposed maps are based on what works best in that area. Williams said there were terrain considerations that led members to think an asphalt path may work better than using gravel or vice versa. In some spots, both would work.
“We put together… quite a bit of information and some cost estimates to be able to see if we can do these trails and see if they’ll be sustainable over time. And so in doing that, we also tried to identify who the user groups will be,” he said.
That’s where the public input comes into play. He said the board tried to pinpoint if people would like a bike path or perhaps they’d rather use it for an afternoon horse ride.
“We’re trying to get as much public input and peer review as we can to see what people think. If they’d like to participate… we’ve set up an email for this and it’s email@example.com,” he said.
Williams said they’ll gather public input and tweak the plan if necessary before talking to the state again. He said the board has had discussions about ways to pay for the installation of new trails. The current price tag for construction of all 65 miles is just shy of $7 million.
“What we’re hoping to do is to be able to incorporate some of this work with some of the work that’s been going on on the Sterling Highway. We’d be able to reduce construction costs and to be able to solve certain issues such as right-of-way acquisitions,” he said.
Williams said that amount does not currently include right-of-way or engineering costs. He said since the parks budget is rather small, the state has been trying to find other pockets of funding that could potentially go to pay for the project.
“As far as initial investment capital, we don’t have a lot. And that’s why we’re trying to use the systems that are available,” he said.
Williams said he expects a project like this one to take up to 10 years to complete. But he’s patient. He said any improvements to the current trails system would be worth it.