Hey, it’s OK to be tourists

Posted: Sunday, June 25, 2006

From the moment the first sign of green — or brown — peeks through the snow, it doesn’t take long for most central Kenai Peninsula minds to turn to one thought: fishing.

As the calendar makes its way to July, traffic increases, sales in anything merely related to fishing shoot upward, and talk around the water cooler turns to inventory of what’s left in the freezer from last year and new recipes to try out on this year’s catch.

It’s amazing what an impact the fish have on the central peninsula. Year after year, the numbers continue to prove we are a popular place to be — especially in July.

But as much as the water draws in tourists from every corner of the globe, it’s not the only thing to do here.

Besides the glacier-fed rivers and streams teeming with fish, there are numerous other adventures waiting to be discovered, not only by tourists, but also by locals.

Many may be familiar with the red and white signs that show up sporadically around the Kenai-Soldotna area enticing folks to consider taking in a ballgame.

The Peninsula Oilers play in the Alaska Baseball League, one of the country’s top collegiate summer baseball leagues. Many of baseball’s household names, including Jimmy Key, Frank Viola, John Olerud and J.D. Drew, have played for the Oilers.

Their schedule has them playing several home games, including a stretch starting Tuesday through July 9, and again from mid- through late July.

Another team that shares Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai is the American Legion Twins, who are finishing up a stint in Florida today and are gearing up for their Bill Miller Big Fish Tournament July 3-6.

But if a bat and ball aren’t your speed, maybe motor races are.

The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions have scheduled a full slate of events at Twin Cities Raceway between Kenai and Soldotna that include Sprint, Late Model, A-Stock and B-Stock, Quarter Midgets and motocross city races.

Too fast? The central peninsula features three nine-hole golf courses and an 18-hole golf course. Birch Ridge Golf Course, the Kenai Golf Course, the Cottonwood Country Club and the Bird Homestead Golf Course each have tournaments throughout the summer.

And if you really want to get off the beaten path, the peninsula is the place to be.

Kenai Peninsula trails offer solitude, incredible scenery and a little excitement with opportunities to view wildlife. A few of the habitats hikers can explore include boreal forest, alpine scrub and tundra.

In the forests and hills, watch for moose, Dall sheep, caribou and bears. From the beach, keep an eye out for beluga whales, sea otters and seals. Across the peninsula, trails offer the chance to pick berries, photograph wildflowers and, yes, even seek a quiet fishing spot.

Trails range from easy to vertical, and with Alaska daylight, there’s no rush to beat the crowds.

We all know what’s in our backyard. For many of us, that’s why we choose to live here. But sometimes we forget how much we have at our fingertips. It’s what draws the tourists to our neck of the woods, and it’s OK to be tourists, too.

Don’t wait. There’s a lot to do and see — and it’s just a matter of time before that first snowflake makes an appearance. Get out and enjoy our summer. You’ll be glad you did.

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