Soldotna area residents were greeted with maps, drafts and a strip of five brightly colored circular stickers when they came to review and discuss the City of Soldotna’s Recreation and Trails Master Plan at an open house held at the Soldotna Sports Center Thursday.
Propped against the bulletin board in a classroom at the sports center were two large maps. One showed the city, the other showed the city and outlying areas like the Tsalteshi Trails system and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Dashed lines wound throughout each map with different colors representing different trails, bike routes and sidewalks — present and future. Symbols for future improvements such an ice skating rink and a BMX course were scattered throughout the various city parks.
Recreation and trails users were asked to “dot it up” by putting their circular stickers on the improvements they were most interested in seeing brought to Soldotna.
Based on the dots, some popular future developments are: a separate trail along Sterling Highway, a connection across the Kenai River between West Redoubt and Kenai Peininsula College and a connection between Centennial Park and the Tsalteshi Trail system.
Meg Mueller of Kenai said she wants to see safe connectivity be a priority, especially at Tsalteshi.
“That way you can have significant events at either end of Tsalteshi Trails,” she said.
Mike Crawford, who works in Soldotna, but is a also a resident of Kenai, is interested in trail development.
“General mountain bike trails would be really great,” he said.
Residents who attended the meeting filled out comment sheets and had opportunity to discuss the plan with Nancy Casey of Casey Planning & Design who was hired by the Parks and Recreation department as a planning consultant for this project.
The department started the master plan, which is based on recommendations in the “Envision Soldotna 2030” comprehensive plan, in January. This is the second open house it has hosted for the public to review the draft. It also created a 20-question survey that was available to recreation users through mid-March and received 580 responses.
Now that the department is in the process of completing the public input phase of this project, the next step is to prioritize ideas Casey said.
“We have all sorts of ideas on the table, so we need to rank them,” she said.
Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael said Casey has been “beating the pavement” to get public input. She even went door knocking to get residents’ opinions about the plan. Whether it was giving feedback at one of the open houses or chatting with Casey at home, people have come up with ideas Carmichael said.
“This is a community and region saying, ‘Yes, this is what we want,’” he said.
Casey will still be taking resident input during the next month. The finishing touches will be made to the draft throughout the summer with 95 percent completion by June 11. The department plans to reach 100 percent completion by late October or early November.