Fund-raising effort started to fix hazards

Posted: Thursday, August 01, 2002

One person can make a difference.

Proof may lie in Per Osmar's efforts to get the Clam Gulch Beach Road repaired to improve the safety of those traversing the 2,200-foot-long road between the beach and the Sterling Highway.

With little state money available to fix the road, Osmar has begun a campaign to raise the funds himself.

"It's kind of neat that the guy that originally built the road is taking the initiative to improve it for commercial fishers and recreational users," said Kenai Area Park Superintendent Chris Degernes. "I'm impressed."

The narrow, one-lane road is part of the Clam Gulch State Recreational Area branching off from the Sterling Highway at about Mile 117. Osmar said it is in considerable disrepair with potholes of up to a foot deep or more pock-marking the pathway. There also is a very steep shoulder to one side of the road, with a creek running alongside it, which could pose a safety hazard, he said.

"It's one of the most dangerous pieces of land in Alaska, I believe," he said. "That creek's more than two feet deep. If a guy fell in there with a car in the summertime, I'm sure he'd drown."

Cars, ATVs, four-wheel-drive trucks and commercial fishing rigs share the road with pedestrians year-round, with only periodic pull-out spots along the road to allow passing. Degernes said with between 60,000 and 70,000 people using the road annually, it would be easy for someone to get hurt there.

"I guess we've just been lucky that we haven't had a serious accident there," she said.

But with state budget cuts to the parks system, Degernes said money is thin or too far off for any immediate fix. A long-term solution is several years away at the most.

So Osmar is making the rounds in Clam Gulch to raise money to "Band-Aid" the road until then. And Degernes gave him permission to do some work on the road.

"After being shoved from bureaucrat to bureaucrat, I started talking to people," Osmar said. "I've gotten hold of Gus Wiley, a contractor who will charge about $900 for the work.

"Most people I've talked to have said, 'I'll give $15 or $10.' That's not big amounts, but it's enough to make us think we can do it."

He figured that getting just $20 from 20 individuals would help. He is getting donations from everyone willing to help. Degernes told him the Kenai Area Parks could help some. She said she could reimburse his cause $250.

"If she really means that that will only set the community back another $650," he said.

Degernes said a federal program initiated in 1998 could generate some money for a more permanent fix in about two years.

"When we get close to that time, we'll be talking about this a lot more," she said. "This won't be the last thing they hear about it before they see the bulldozer run."

But until then, Osmar's efforts will have to suffice.

"All we're concerned about is getting this road safe," he said.

To make a donation, call Osmar at 262-9046 or make a deposit at Wells Fargo Bank to the Clam Gulch Beach Road Fund.

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