Voices of the Peninsula: Soldotna mayor looks at a year of progress

This weekend will be Progress Days in Soldotna. I talked to former Mayor Kearlee Wright who was rumored to be the one who selected the end of July for the celebration. He told me he wasn’t sure how the festival got started but that initially churches and other organizations used this as a fundraiser. For the first big parade, his father Zell talked to Ted Stevens, who sent the Air Force band to lead the parade. He tells me it was a great community gathering because everybody knew everybody.

The community has grown a great deal since that time but hopefully we can maintain that spirit of friendship.

The last year has shown a great deal of development with the Soldotna Creek Park being finished, Centennial Park being expanded, and pending Council approval, Swift Water Park will be expanded next year. The hospital is progressing on a $40 million expansion, Walgreen’s is building, and street construction has been so prevalent that a friend suggested we rename Soldotna “Detour.” We have had the highest number of building permits in our history. The airport has had significant improvement and we just received another $4 million dollars for further upgrades

Economic progression alone does not contribute to an improved quality of life. We are trying to balance economic development with environmental protection and aesthetics. They beautification of storefronts is one example. The inclusion of green belts and foliage in our street construction is another. We recently passed a construction plan to improve the safety of children going to school. My hope is that we can substantially increase our trail system as is outlined in our Envision 2030. We have opened a teen center and are working hard to expand the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

We’re also very aware of the Kenai River and every project is designed to minimize pollution and we are constantly upgrading sewage disposal to minimize our impact on the river.

There is always room for improvement, but I believe we have a lot to celebrate. Come out with your friends and neighbors and enjoy this weekend. I will be working with the Dutch oven competition and many city council members will be serving you food on Sunday.

Nels Anderson serves as mayor of Soldotna. You can find more information about Progress Days in the special section inserted into today’s Clarion.

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