Parties agree on terms; Unity Trail to come full circle

Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The wait is finally over. The Unity Trail will be completed along the Kenai Spur Highway between Kenai and Soldotna.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facili-ties successfully negotiated a deal that will allow work to proceed over the quarter-mile right of way along the highway between Eagle Rock and Strawberry roads on land that has gone untouched while the rest of the 5.3-mile bike path was finished earlier this summer.

"We've agreed upon a price," said DOT assistant regional director Murph O'Brien, without disclosing the figure.

He said the price will be made public once the deal is closed within two weeks, although current Kenai Peninsula Borough apprai-sals value the entire property at $255,800.

Of three adjoining plots along the quarter-mile stretch of highway, one piece of land jointly registered to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Kenai resident Phyllis Bookey has been the stopping block in the DOT's progress.

"They made a counter offer and we accepted it," O'Brien said.

Both Bookey and BIA officials declined to comment.

DOT has been in negotiations for the 100-foot highway right of way to the property for more than a year. O'Brien said the two sides reached an agreement last week. He said the department is working to seal the deal and reassign contractors to the project.

"If that happens, we're going to try to make a run at getting that section of the trail constructed this summer," he said. "We have the necessary funding set aside."

O'Brien admitted to being slightly anxious about whether the project can be completed.

"I don't know that anything can go wrong at this point. I'm just cautious," he said. "We still have to wait on the paperwork transferring the right of way that we're acquiring from the owners. And we're still negotiating with the contractors. (They) could have something else planned for now. I will feel much more comfortable about things once the dirt starts to move."

For now, however, a string of orange and white barricades line that portion of the highway.

"We did that because people will have to come up on the shoulder of the road to continue on the trail," O'Brien said.

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