Working in the rain Borough Mayor Dale Bagley lends a hand in the construction of the walkway at Slikok Creek.
When Marit Hartvigson was in sixth grade she was part of the Adopt-a-Stream program at K-Beach Elementary School. She and her 30 some classmates monthly would hike down to Slikok Creek to do water samplings. That year her older brother Pehr won first place in the annual Caring For the Kenai (CFK) contest sponsored by Unocal and Agrium. Marit wishing to follow in her brothers footsteps noticed that all the kids participating in the Adopt-a-Stream program were trampling the banks of the creek and causing damage to the habitat. It was back then when she first got the idea of building a walkway for the students so that they could get to the creek without trampling the vegetation. "My brother really helped by leading the way and showing me that a young person really can accomplish a large project like this if they put the work into it," said Marit.
This spring as a high school student at SoHi, Marit entered her idea which she had designed, engineered and built a scale model of in the CFK contest and won first place and $1,500 cash. After her CFK success she was encouraged by her parents and CFK sponsors to actually build her project. Marit discovered it was a long way from the drawing board to the sound of aluminum grates being put into place. There were permits and liability issues to deal with, not to mention the physical costs of the materials and labor to construct her project. "I approached Bill Berkahn at State Parks to get the permit and he was a big help, we ran into some liability issues with the original proposed location, but State Parks helped us find another location and we finally got the permit," said Hartvigson.
In a community where most everyone wants to help preserve the Kenai River and generously support our youth, once Hartvigson had the permit and the location, it was smooth sailing. Hartvigson said that Kenai River Sportfishing Association was very generous in helping to fund the project and that she also got money from US Fish & Wildlife. "State Parks donated a lot of the aluminum grids which was a big savings, and then Mike's Welding did all the aluminum fabrication at a special low rate, so it really became a community effort," added Marit. That volunteer effort carried through with the actual construction of the walkway last weekend, with members of the Soldotna Rotary Club pitching in along with officials from the US Fish & Wildlife, State Parks, KRSA, Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, and of course Marit's Dad and Mom. "When we saw Marit's project it became a funding priority for KRSA. We contributed about $7,500 toward the project, but Marit did a great job of getting material and labor donations that allowed the walk way to be completed for a fraction of what a project like this otherwise would have cost," said Ricky Gease, Kenai River Sportfishing Association executive director.
According to biologist Brie Darr of U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the Adopt-a-Stream program has been going on for 12 years and has been a great opportunity for hundreds of students to learn about habitat and water quality in their own back yard, "It speaks highly of the experience when a young person takes what she learned on into high school and then creates an idea to improve the experience for others. This is going to be a fantastic project for all the kids at K-Beach School and I know they are really going to appreciate this," said Darr.
A public dedication is being planned for the Slikok Creek walkway project at a date yet to be announced, but when the Adopt-a-Stream students from K-Beach Elementary go out to take their water samples this month; they will no longer be trampling the vegetation thanks to Marit Hartvigson's idea and well organized community work project.
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