Visitors know Soldotna for its big salmon and big stores. But residents know the city also offers a fine selection of public parks.
That selection is about to get even better.
This month the city set up a new parks and recreation department to oversee and coordinate improvements. The reorganization will help the city complete several major parks projects now in the works or in the planning stage and generate new ones in the years to come.
Karen Street Recreation Site: The city's main parks project at this time is setting up a winter play area for children at this neighborhood park on the east side of town.
Andrew Carmichael, the city's parks and recreation director, said the city recently finished acquiring land to expand the park. The plans are to put in a "bunny hill" for skiing and sledding and a half pipe for snowboarders.
"We are hoping to have something, depending on what we can get cleared this summer, opening this fall," he said.
Parker Park: The park near the Soldotna Senior Center along the aptly named Park Street has been cleaned up and planted to serve as a picnic and strolling destination. Some seeding and a planned gazebo remain to be done.
"Parker Park is coming to fruition," Carmichael said.
The Soldotna Sports Center area: The city owns 192 acres between Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Kenai River. Centennial Park, which has 166 camping spaces and a boat launch, is there. Other portions are leased to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, the Little League, the Soldotna Equestrian Association and the Soldotna Historical Society. All have recreation facilities there.
Residents have suggested ideas for developing the rest of the area, especially the portions closest to the sports center, into an expanded public recreation complex. The city is in the process of hiring a consultant to report on potential options.
Soldotna Creek Park: This popular park, somewhat smaller than six acres, sits on States Avenue behind the Hutchings' auto dealership at the confluence of waters where Soldotna was founded in the 1940s. The park has a pavilion, barbecue pit, picnic areas, playground and boardwalks along the river, enhanced last year as part of an award-winning project by Soldotna teens.
The future holds a major expansion for Soldotna Creek Park.
The adjacent eight-acre parcel, which used to house the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' road maintenance shop, is slated to be rehabilitated and added to the existing park. After the Karen Street site is finished, the old DOT lot will be the city's next priority parks project, Carmichael said.
"Because that has been so ugly for so long, everyone is excited about that," he said.
Boardwalks: The city has riverfront boardwalks at Swiftwater, Soldotna Creek, Centennial and Rotary parks and below the Soldotna Visitors Center. The walkways were built by private and public partnerships over the past decade to restore and preserve the Kenai River and its salmon runs for future generations.
The city recently received funds to build a new boardwalk linking the sections at Centennial Park and the visitors' center.
Sunrise Park: This neighborhood play field is getting topsoil and seeding this summer. It will offer baseball and soccer.
Arc Lake Park: This site is unusual in that it actually lies outside city limits south of town. It offers picnic space and opportunities for fishing and canoeing on the lake.
Aspen Park: This residential park on Aspen Drive near Knight Drive has playground equipment and a picnic table.
Farnsworth Park: This residential park on Birch Street is geared to small children with playground equipment for tots, picnic tables and a pavilion.
Riverview Park: This residential park on West Riverview Avenue has playground and picnic facilities.
Rotary Park: This forested park is between the river and Funny River Road behind the city maintenance shop. It is open for picnics and fishing, with a boardwalk and a new fish table.
Swiftwater Park and Campground: This park off East Redoubt Avenue covers about 60 acres of forest and riverbank. It has about 40 overnight camping sites, a boat launch, picnic area and boardwalk. Included is recreational vehicle parking, restrooms and a dump station. Future plans include paving East Redoubt and increasing parking at the park.
Future additions: The city is looking into setting up a park for skateboarders.
"That is still in the we'd-like-to-have stage," Carmichael said.
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