Kenai’s Parks and Recreation Commission discussed planned improvements at Kenai Municipal Park and on trails throughout town at its Monday meeting.
The commission discussed two draft plans created for the city by Nancy Casey, a landscape architect, offering feedback on how the plans might best suit the community’s needs.
The commission also discussed the ability for the public to participate in the process. Ultimately, they recommended that the city council seek public feedback on the trails project, and notify affected property owners before working on any new path.
The draft Kenai Trails plan details a multi-year agenda for improving and creating pathways throughout the city. Listed in the plan are four trail corridors that the city is looking to develop: the Shqui Tsatnu Creek Trails in the Woodlands Subdivision, the Municipal Park Trails connecting Municipal Park to the Municipal Ball Fields, Ryan’s (Kili Betnu) Creek Trails in the downtown and commercial core and the Shk’ituk’tnu Creek Trails between the Kenai Spur Highway and Lawton Drive.
Casey said the trail segments mostly align with the river and creek corridors. Many have foot trails that people have developed from continued use, she said.
The first priority on the trail plan is a series of pathways along Ryan’s Creek.
Commissioner Rebecca Lambourn said she likes the idea of more trails in Kenai, but asked why that path was the priority.
Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates said that trail was a priority because it connects pieces of the city’s downtown core, and could provide a connection to Daubenspeck Park on Marathon Road.
With that goal in mind, the commission asked for the plan to include a trail connection from Airport Way to the park, rather than expecting users to venture along sidewalks for the final segment.
Municipal Park Trails are listed in the plan as the second priority, but received wide-spread support from the commission.
Frates said he really liked the trail that would link Municipal Park and the ball fields.
Lambourn agreed that several of the trails would enhance local recreation opportunities and the town’s livability. She noted that trails through wild areas are also something visitors might enjoy as a way to see part of the city. She also really liked the segment of the Municipal Park Trails that could connect Old Town to the park, she said.
The plan also called for a pedestrian bridge or tunnel over the Kenai Spur Highway as part of the Municipal Park Trails. While that ammenity isn’t listed as an immediate priority for the city to fund, Casey said including such a dream features in the plan can help secure state funding for it in the future.
Kristine Schmidt, a member of the public, also weighed in on the trails. She asked the commission to keep the public in mind when making decisions, and said she didn’t like the idea of a parking lot or other development in her neighborhood — where the Shqui Tsatnu Creek Trails are proposed. Those trails, and the Shk’ituk’tnu Trails are listed as the lowest priority on the plan.
Frates said the city is working on a trail-building plan that would put local youth to work. Most likely, a crew of 14- to 16-year-olds would build wood chip trails, with an experienced crew leader.
The committee also discussed the planned expansion at the Kenai Municipal Park, on South Forest.
Frates said the city has about $60,000 budgeted for playground equipment.
Casey presented a drawing with tentative equipment and locations for the park. The expansion will add equipment and move the parking area.
Casey said she worked to make the park safe for pedestrians and youth as she updated the design. Under the current plan, cars will not be able to drive through the park; there will be a parking lot near the north end of the park on South Forest, and one near the gazebo.
Casey said her design included the equipment families had talked about at a community meeting — a zip line and a boulder for climbing — and also asked the commission to consider adding a net climbing feature. She addressed some of the safety concerns, noting that Anchorage has not had a problem with moose getting tangled in net features, and that they are well vetted throughout the state as providing safe play. They’re also a kid-pleaser, she said.
“It’s versatile,” Casey said. “It’s something kids can be creative with.”
The draft also includes an arched entrance at the pedestrian entrance on South Forest, and seating for parents who are watching kids play.
Commissioner Jim Beeson also discussed the possibility of a dirt mound for some types of activitiy, like sledding in the winter.
Lambourn said she wanted to ensure that there are wide-open grassy spaces for youth to run and play.
“It’s just space to run around on,” Lambourn said.
Commissioner Charlie Stephens suggested locating such an area toward the back of the park so it wouldn’t interfere with pickup games, like frisbee, softball or others.
There was also some discussion of the proposed parking lot, and whether or not it would wind up seeing more use from dipnetters or the community. Lambourn asked if the city could ensure that the parking lot was reserved for playground users, rather than just another camp-out spot for visitors wanting to be near the beach. As a resident of that area, she said she sees that type of use every summer.
Mayor Pat Porter, who was in the audience, said city administration is responsible for signage and enforcement. It might be possible to limit the time one was allowed to park so that all-day dipnetters were discouraged from using the spots.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.