Whether it’s skiing, walking, jogging, snowshoeing, biking or rollerblading, there are trail options in the area, but local organizations and city recreation departments are working to give recreation users more choices of where to make tracks year round.
The Tsalteshi Trails Association and the cities of Kenai and Soldotna have been adding trails, expansions and connections this summer and fall.
Bill Holt, maintenance manager for the Tsalteshi Trails, has been busy carving out a new trail since mid-October. Porcupine Trail is a beginner and intermediate level trail, Holt said. The about 1.3-mile, low-ground trail is similar to Wolverine Trail, which is located in the northeast corner of the Tsalteshi property. He said it’s the last place to make a reasonable distance trail.
“We’ve run out of room,” he said.
He said although the trail seems to have no hills from Kalifornsky Beach Road, there are glacial eskers — ridges of gravel and sand deposited by streams under glaciers. However, there are not a lot of big hills, he said, but the association did create a small trail that has some steep hills off of Porcupine Trail that trail users bypass.
Holt said Monday the trail is essentially ready for skiing this winter, and avid skiers are excited for a new trail.
“It will be ready to go; we’ll be skiing on it no matter what,” Holt said
Porcupine Trail also connects with Wolverine Trail between 980 and 1,300 feet into Wolverine Trail so users of that trail can return to the parking lot without trekking through the entire Wolverine trail, Holt said.
Until that snow flies for skiers and snowshoers, there are more than one dozen trails maintained by the association on the property for runners and walkers to enjoy.
Along with creating a new trail, the association has been busy improving and widening other trails, adding kiosks for better maps and information and changing to LED lighting, Holt said.
He said the association would like to start lighting Squirrel Trail next year.
Recent light and light improvements have been funded through the Department of Natural Resources parks division Recreational Trails Grant Program. Porcupine is mostly funded by a Kenai Peninsula Borough community revenue sharing grant. Additional funds come from memberships, donations and fundraisers, Holt said.
Kenai added footage to trails in the city during the summer that Kenai Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates said active skiers and showshoers can look forward to utilizing this winter.
The city worked on a segment at Daubenspeck Park to eventually complete a trail around Daubenspeck Pond. Frates said it is now about 75 percent complete.
Ryan’s Creek Trail was also extended north of Airport Way Road staying west of Homer Electric Association and wrapping around to join with Marathon Road.
He said the additional about 2,000 feet of trail was something the Parks and Recreation Commission decided in the spring to construct and that is was not originally part of the trail plan draft.
He said there was previously not a good connection between the Ryan’s Creek Trail and Daubenspeck Park. Now park goers don’t have to walk along the road to get to their destination.
“(It’s) an entirely more scenic and enjoyable route than pavement,” Frates said.
He said Daubenspeck park has been a good location for winter activities with ice skating, and now this winter people will be able to ski the loop around the lake, cross Marathon Road and ski Ryan’s Creek Trail.
“That really gets you out of town, so to speak, and really gives you that kind of a wilderness setting,” Frates said.
In addition to those updates, Kenai completed an 800-foot trail section between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Future tail improvements for Kenai include finishing the Ryan’s Creek Trail extension and upgrading an existing trail at Beaver Creek Park, Frates said.
This fall, Soldotna has staked out a connection between Centennial Campground and the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Soldotna Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael said the connection includes 190 feet of elevated walkway connecting the river and the base of the hill and a long ramp instead of stairs to make it skiable and snowshoeable in the winter.
The city is waiting for the ground to freeze to start construction on the connection totaling between 400 and 500 feet, Carmichael said.
He said the connection was something many residents supported from the Recreation and Trails Master Plan as a year-round asset.
“Centennial has so much use in the wintertime, it’s just not in a continuous loop,” Carmichael said.
The loop won’t be available for winter use this year as construction won’t be complete until likely next spring, Carmichael said.
In the spring as well the city hopes to work on connecting the Visitor Center with Centennial as well.
“By the time we get done with that, you’ll actually be able to do a 2.2-mile loop,” Carmichael said.
At an Oct. 23 meeting, the Soldotna City Council passed a resolution on its consent agenda to support a paved walking path from K-Beach Elementary School to Kenai Peninsula College.
Council member Pete Sprague said it’s a project that the city and schools have been interested in for a few years.
“There’s just a lot of foot traffic and there’s really no walkway to get safely between K-Beach (Elementary) and the college,” Sprague said. “This is just an attempt to address that safety issue.”
Sprague said if it’s possible, he’d like to see the walking path constructed within the next few years.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.