Last summer, Kenai Parks and Recreation crews skimmed up topsoil with Bobcats, laid down sheets of TYPAR and dropped 7,000 feet of gravel to build four trail segments that run behind Safeway down to the Senior Center. The trails system follows Ryan’s Creek, known in its Dena’ina name as Kili Betnu.
“You’re out here in the midst of the trails, and you’re almost in the woods and secluded,” Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates said. “It just gives you a really nice feeling. It almost feels like you’re not in the center of town.”
The trails system begins at the Kenai River Bluff, west of the Senior Center, and winds over a half mile north to Airport Way. Along the way it crosses Frontage Road, the Kenai Spur Highway and Granite Point Street.
“They’re all meant to provide connectivity in the core center of town,” Frates said.
Parks and Recreation crews are working on a fifth segment of the trails system in Daubenspeck Family Park, also. This section, which will run from Marathon Road to northeastern edge of the park, will not connect to the four others, but it will add 2,200 feet to the trails.
Frates said his department budgeted $100,000 for the trails project, but he anticipates the final cost to be far less.
So far, the trails have not received much use, Frates said. Its main user group, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Al Hull said, are children on bicycles.
But Frates said he is still “fine tuning” the trail system, and when Kenai’s Parks and Recreation crews are done, he and Hull expect a lot of bike, foot and cross country traffic.
In the winter, Frates said crews will groom the trails and set a classic track to one side for cross country skiers.
“That nice rain we got a few weeks back showed us some vulnerable parts, and we’re going to need to correct those,” said Chris Konig, a full-time parks and recreation operator.
To fix those areas, Frates said, crews need to dig water bars and build up, seed and plant trees on several banks along the trails.
“That was all we anticipated,” Konig said. “I mean, we were eventually going to find out anyway where our weak points were because this was our first time doing this kind of thing.”
Frates said his department will also cut ramps into the sidewalks at street intersections, paint crosswalks and add pedestrian crosswalk signs.
Along the trails he said they still need to add benches, trash cans and dog waste stations.
During construction, Konig said he operated the heavy machinery and cut down trees and stumps. Ella Stephens, a temporary supervisor working with UAA student Tanner Fowler and Kenai resident Joshua McKee, marked the trails and removed roots, Konig said.
Frates said his crews tried to minimize impact to the forest as best they could.
“That meant leaving as many trees along the way that we could,” he said. “If we could minimize the impact of a tree by rerouting the trail, that’s what we did.”
And he thinks they did a good job; he said they only cut down about 20 large trees.
This resulted in a winding corridor through the woods, which he said is nice because it gives people a greater sense of wilderness.
“For the most part we aren’t completly done,” Konig said, “but I figure we’re 95 percent done. We’ve still got odds and ends to do.”
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.