After three years of applying for state funding, the Legislature approved money for a pedestrian path between an elementary school and Kenai Peninsula College in the capital budget.
The project is a joint effort of KPC, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and Alaska Christian College. Lawmakers approved $463,100 for the lighted and paved path, which would run between Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School and KPC’s Kenai River Campus.
“It’s been a nice effort between the school district and the two colleges,” KPC Director Gary Turner said. “We’re all interested in our student safety and at the same time we’re interested in our resident population safety.”
He said he noticed the lack of a path start to become an issue about four years ago when he began to see more elementary students walking and biking to and from school.
With the Residence Hall at KRC and the increasing enrollment at Alaska Christian College Turner said the need for a pathway has become increasingly evident.
Turner said in the dark days of winter it can be difficult to see pedestrians who walk alongside the road and moose and bears also frequent the area, raising safety concerns.
“We’ve had a lot of close calls out there,” Turner said.
Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD spokesperson, said the lighted path will be helpful to K-Beach students who walk or bike to school in the mornings during the fall and winter months.
According to the project description in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Capital Improvement Projects list, the plan calls for the existing path along K-Beach road to be extended 0.4 miles from its end just past Ravenwood Street to the intersection of Poppy Ridge Road. The total project cost is estimated to be $463,337.
While the three schools have been primary pushers of the project, the City of Soldotna has also shown its support of the project by including it in the Recreation and Trails Master Plan and the yet-to-be-passed Safe Routes to School Plan. The Soldotna City Council also passed a resolution supporting the project. Turner said the path is really a community project.
“A lot of people, they’re walking along that K-Beach path now, a lot of them come this way to sort of get away from the traffic,” Turner said. “So I think you’re going to see even more people, if this goes in, utilizing back in here. It’s quieter and it’s back by the river.”
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com.