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Deadline looming for Homer ski trail land purchase

Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Kachemak Heritage Land Trust is facing a June deadline in six-year efforts to raise enough money to protect 275 acres of historic and popular ski trails on Baycrest Hill near Homer.

The nonprofit organization hopes to purchase the acreage before its owner, the University of Alaska, adds it to their fall land sale catalogue. To do that, KHLT must come up with $110,000 by June. The cost of the entire project is $750,000.

The project to acquire the land began in 2001. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation helped KHLT secure $425,000 in federal Forest Legacy funding. So far, individual donations along with other grants from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Conservation Fund and the Pacific Coast Joint Venture have raised an additional $190,000, bringing the organization within sight of its target.

In a recent fundraising letter, Executive Director Barbara Seaman said acquiring the property would protect ski trails and open space adjacent to the 360-acre state-owned Homer Demonstration Forest and to 77 acres held by KHLT under a conservation easement.

“For 25 years, this ski trail system has been an important recreational area only a few minutes from downtown Homer,” Seaman said in the newsletter. She was unavailable Tuesday for further comment.

If the land can be acquired, it would become the property of the city of Homer and be managed by the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, something it has done for the past 25 years. Currently, the club maintains more than 30 kilometers of ski trails within the Diamond Creek watershed, making it largest area maintained for cross-country skiers in the region. Several kilometers of ski trails cross the university land.

In January, the Homer City Council voted unanimously on an ordinance accepting the land as a gift from KHLT, assuming it is purchased from the university. At the council’s Jan. 22 meeting, several supporters spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Dave Brann is a long-time member of the ski club that has a membership that varies from 200 to 500. According to minutes of the meeting, Brann likened the parcel to the field of dreams, calling it a good deal that already has someone to care for it. Brann said the land had huge potential for winter and summer trail growth.

Tina Day, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce, said the purchase and agreement by the city to accept ownership would provide legal and sustainable access to the pristine trails. She told the council about 45 percent of the chamber’s visitor inquiries regard where to ski in Homer. She said between 6,000 and 8,000 people visit the hiking trails in the area each year.

Roberta Highland, a city resident, said acquisition of the land would protect important wetlands and Diamond Creek from future development.

Records show residents log 2,600 user-days per year and that users include Homer High School and Homer Middle School ski teams.

KHLT is expected to make an offer for the land by March 15, leaving 90 days to come up with the remaining funds. For more information or to contribute, call KHLT at 235-5263.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.



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