Soldotna Creek Park was awash in activity Wednesday. Early in the morning Homer Electric crews awaited the arrival of a 35 foot tall Christmas tree being hauled from the ConocoPhillips Kenai LNG Facility to the park by Peak Oilfield Services. When the tree arrived, professional crews from the City of Soldotna, ConocoPhillips and Homer Electric Association (HEA) safely placed the tree on a secure pedestal and installed guy wires to ensure stability. While crews completed the installation of the tree and prepared a concrete bonfire ring in the area outside of the parking lot, staff and board members from the Kenai Watershed Forum prepared for their Annual Holiday Open House to celebrate another year of habitat restoration.
The giant aluminum tree was an idea brought about in planning for the winter “vision” for Soldotna Creek Park which is to include skating, pavilion and a bonfire location for winter holiday celebrations. Michelle Glaves, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce executive director called the Soldotna mayor to express the need for a new tree as a center piece for the holiday season. Further research showed that such a tree could cost the City anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 wich would strain the City budget. So local businesses and members of the community came together once again to step up to make the tree project happen. ConocoPhillips designed and built the tree, the Chamber of Commerce donated 6,000 LED lights, Mayor Micciche and volunteers dipped into their own pockets to purchase additional materials and install the lights, Peak Oilfield Services hauled the tree to the Park and HEA crews set the tree on the pedestal all as a community volunteer effort.
At 6:00pm Wednesday with a bonfire warmly blazing, the lighting ceremony attendees and Watershed Forum visitors assembled at the base of the tree. Mayor Micciche requested that Russell Lacey, the Peak welder for ConocoPhillips that designed and built the tree join him along with his three and a half year old daughter Annemarie for the inaugural lighting of his creation. They each held one end of the plug as the crowd counted down from ten. Those gathered went ecstatic and cars passing by honked in appreciation as the tree brightened the center of Soldotna with thousands of white lights and a blue star at the top of the tree. “We are blessed to live in a small town that has so many generous businesses and community members willing to come forward for our community. The ultimate value to such quality-of-life events is bringing our most talented young people home after graduation from a university. They remember these special little things and when choosing between the bright lights of the big city, and what the Kenai Peninsula has to offer, they often come home to raise their families. This is what makes communities like Soldotna a special place to call home,” said Mayor Micciche.