Fishing enthusiasts with special needs gained additional access to the Kenai River Tuesday with the opening of a new walkway in Centennial Park in Soldotna.
The steel walkway, the culmination of a two-year effort by members of Soldotna's Parks Advisory Committee and the Soldotna Sports Center Advisory Board, runs along and above the river and is designed to accommodate wheelchair-bound fishers.
"We hope to do many more of these," Soldotna Mayor Ken Lancaster said at Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. He then announced the city's intention to build "an even bigger and better" facility at Swiftwater Park.
The Parks Advisory Committee and Sports Center Advisory Board have been working closely to develop the recreational facilities of the Soldotna community. Members of both organizations, which will combine to create the Soldotna Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in January, look forward to the completion of other ambitious projects. Guy Hays, who sits on the Parks Advisory Committee, said future projects include a ski hill on Karen Street and another park on Parker Street, currently under construction.
Instrumental to the completion of the Centennial Park walkway was the participation of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Brett Huber, the organization's director, praised Lancaster for his active involvement with all Kenai River issues. He then described in detail the meaningful contribution that Kelli Thibodeau made through a memorial fund in honor of her late husband, Scott. Scott was an avid fisher with physical limitations.
"Scott was never really handicapped," said Joe Gallant, Scott's best friend.
He and Scott fished the Kenai River for 25 years, he said, noting that Scott's physical limitations never kept him from enjoying the sport of fishing. Scott's mother, who was unable to attend his funeral, will receive a bow from the ribbon that was cut at the ceremony.
A small plaque will be placed at the walkway in memory of Scott Thibodeau.
Centennial Park is located off Kalifornsky Beach Road on Centennial Park Road.
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