Dreams do come true.
The final phase of the Soldotna Creek Park Improvement Project “been in everybody’s dream box for a long time” will soon become a reality, according to Soldotna Parks and Recreation director Andrew Carmichael.
“My dream is to have the most corny, Norman Rockwellian atmosphere with a tinny metal speaker blaring ‘Rudolph’ out of the side of it on Jan. 8 at 2 o’clock or whatever,” Carmichael said with a laugh.
Soldotna hopes to begin construction on a list of park improvements that includes a pavilion and a lighted trail system this week.
“It’s going to dress it up very nicely, and I think folks will be extremely pleased,” city engineer Kyle Kornelis said.
Kornelis expects the pavilion to be a “highly used feature” for city events and festivals, as well as birthday parties and other private events.
“There’s certainly a lot of activity at the park, especially since the playground has been incorporated, and that use is only going to increase,” Kornelis said.
Carmichael and Kornelis both expect to see increased use of the park in the winter with the lighted trail system.
“It’s something that, coming out of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, is to facilitate expanded winter recreation activities on a more casual basis,” Carmichael said. “Instead of having to put on your skis, you can walk the park on the paths or even just pull your car up and skate on a path pretty casually, i.e., embracing winter instead of hunkering down.”
Along with the bandshell-style pavilion, two smaller covered structures and a trail lighting system, two other improvements include parking lot lights and year-round restrooms.
The restrooms will feature high-end, vandal-proof fixtures and finishes that are easy to maintain.
Construction was scheduled to begin a few weeks earlier, but was delayed because Soldotna needed to appropriate additional funding to afford all the improvements. Kornelis said longevity of the restroom fixtures was one component that justified the increased cost of the project.
At the June 12 city council meeting, council members unanimously appropriated an additional $547,000 to bring the total funding for the project to $1,175,536.
The delay worked in the city’s favor by avoiding construction conflicts with the Kenai River Festival and general increased park use due to the warm weather.
Kornelis said residents can expect a significant impact to park access during construction.
The city intends to maintain playground access, and the Kenai River will remain accessible through July. The field and restroom area will be impacted throughout the summer.
And, during portions of August, the city will likely shut the park down completely to finish construction. The city hopes to complete construction at the park this fall.
“We understand that it’s not preferable, but it will allow us to accomplish the work and get out of there … to enjoy the park fully (next year),” Kornelis said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com.