The Kenai City Council recently debated a measure that would have allowed residents of Kenai to park for free to access the personal-use dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River.
As a Kenai resident, I would have been thrilled with such a measure. It's nice to be able to catch a manageable number of fish at one time my kids aren't old enough to help with the filleting just yet but shelling out $10 for a couple hour's parking makes personal-use fishing an expensive venture.
The council did not act on the proposal the council members and the city attorney were concerned about possible discrimination issues and denying access to the fishery. Instead, the council opted to study the demographics of fishery use this year and perhaps institute a seasonal pass for next year.
However, as I was walking along the Kenai beach with my dogs last weekend, checking out the dipnet frenzy, I had an idea that would solve that issue as well as another one associated with the annual personal-use fishery, namely, litter.
Each year, the amount of trash removed from the beaches on the north and south beaches by the mouth of the Kenai River is measured not in pounds, but in tons. Much of it is cleaned up by city of Kenai employees, and several Dumpster loads are piled up by other youth and volunteer organizations.
Last weekend, with the dipnet fishery just days old, the high tide line on the Kenai beach already was lined with plastic bottles, aluminum cans and discarded snack wrappers. Workers and volunteers every year clean up all sorts of rubbish, from bags full of fish guts to no-longer-wanted camping and fishing gear.
Here's my idea: Place a Dumpster by the toll shack at the end of Spruce Street, and for every bag of trash properly disposed, refund $2 of the parking fee. Bring back five bags of trash, park for free for a day.
As an alternative, the city could issue vouchers to anyone who shows up for a day after the fishery closes to help clean up. Save your parking receipts and get reimbursed, or use the voucher for parking next year. Heck, the city could make the voucher good for parking at the airport over the winter, when many of us are planning vacations and might appreciate some free parking.
I don't know how many people might take advantage of such a program, but my guess is that the city would not lose very much revenue from people throwing away their trash. I'll spare everyone a sermon on cleaning up after ourselves; everywhere groups of people gather, whether it be a fishing spot or a high school basketball game, large amounts of trash are left behind no matter how many trash barrels are put out or signs posted.
A voucher program might encourage some people to spend some time picking up trash during a slow fishing day, or keep kids busy while their parents are fishing.
Mostly, though, such a program would be a nice way for the city to say "thank you" to people who like to walk their dogs or jog, fly kites, collect seashells or just relax on the beach and treasure it enough to pick up trash others leave behind.
Will Morrow is a reporter at the Peninsula Clarion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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