The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Kenai Peninsula College and Alaska Christian College are collaborating in hopes of installing a paved lighted walkway along the east side of Poppy Lane, giving non-motorized traffic a safer route to walk or bike.
The walkway, originally proposed by KPC Director Gary Turner, would reach from KPC to Kalifornsky Beach Elementary. Turner contacted ACC President Keith Hamilton and KPBSD Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater so the three could present the proposal to their respective advisory boards. The proposal was approved by the KPC Council, ACC Board, KPBSD Board of Education and the Soldotna City Council.
Turner said the walkway is needed due to the high amount of pedestrian traffic along Poppy Lane that ends up walking in the road because there is not a safe place to walk along the road, especially when pedestrians have to share the area with wildlife.
“There’s lots of wildlife in this area — there have been brown bear sightings and moose seen every day,” Turner said. “We thought it was a safety concern.”
With the large amount of students who get to school on foot or bike, Turner felt something had to be done.
“There seems to be a considerable amount of traffic,” Turner said. “K-Beach Elementary students walking along the road to and from school and up to the Poppy Lane intersection. We have a lot of ACC students walk up there as well, there’s lots of traffic with those students.”
Hamilton said many ACC students walk along Poppy Lane, and would benefit from the lighted walkway.
“Our students travel to and from the intersection at Poppy (Lane) for recreation and getting snacks and food and things,” Hamilton said. “It is not lit, they do not have a place to walk or ride their bicycles as they go down there.”
Hamilton said ACC is concerned for the students’ safety. In the last 10 years, he said there have been at least two instances of students being accosted along the roadway. The winter conditions also played a factor in his backing of the walkway.
“It is dangerous to be walking along the road with ice and snow berms,” he said. “It’s a safety concern for us, and it’d be an enormous help to K-Beach (Elementary), KPC and ACC students if we can finish that walkway.”
Atwater said he is pleased with the collaboration between the three schools.
“We are hopeful that the Legislature will recognize the importance of keeping the students from the three schools safe,” he said.
Since the walkway has been approved locally, the next step is for the city of Soldotna to receive funding from the state legislature to help pay for the walkway. The state’s funding would be a grant for a city road and right-of-way project. The Alaska State Legislature session runs January 17 to April 15.