Bill Holt, a Tsalteshi Trails Association board member, points to some of the parking in the new access point to the Tsalteshi Trails. The new access is off of Kalifornsky Beach Road, across from the Soldotna Sports Center, and is large enough to park 25 cars and turn a bus around, according to Holt.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Whether just out strolling with the dog, running or bicycling in summer, or snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter, Tsalteshi Trails offers year-round recreation, but access from Kalifornsky Beach Road has always been fairly limited until now.
"We've got a new parking lot with direct access into the Wolverine (Trail), so now the trail system can be accessed from either behind Skyview High School or Kalifornsky Beach Road," said Bill Holt, a Tsalteshi Trails Association board member and the grooming guru for the trail system in winter.
The new access point a packed-gravel road that is roughly 1,000 feet long is almost directly across from the Soldotna Sports Center, and slightly more west than the older, cruder access point.
"We looked at how people were accessing the trails from this side, and they were either parking at the sports center or United Rentals and then walking across the highway which was a real safety hazard or they would park across from the sports center, but then they had to cross a swamp to get to the trails," Holt said.
Crossing the low-lying wetlands was easier said than done, according to Holt.
"In winter, you had to wait for it to freeze and then it wasn't too bad, but after breakup and in summer it was terrible. You couldn't walk it or ski it. You really couldn't go through it at all," he said.
Holt said this was a disappointment for many reasons, but chiefly because in spring, the Wolverine Trail is among the first to dry out.
"Wolverine is a different soil structure. It's real sandy, so after breakup people can run and bicycle it weeks before they can be on the Moose (Trail) and the other trails at the upper end, but since it wasn't entirely safe to get to, we couldn't promote its use," he said.
Now, with the new access point, the trails will be easier and safer to use year-round, and more convenient for daily users too, according to Holt.
"It'll work good for people that want to ski on a lunch break, or when they don't have a lot of time. It's only a 10-minute drive from Kenai, so people could zip over, ski a (three-kilometer) loop without any big hills, and zip back," he said.
Holt said the new trail access also will prevent congestion on the upper trails.
"People can now go from one end and get picked up at the other. Also, no one has to worry about interfering with the high school ski team. Now they can have a quiet, peaceful run without feeling in the way," he said.
Holt said the high school teams, in addition to Skyview, should also benefit from the new trail access.
"We made the area big enough to park about 25 cars and turn a bus around, so when we're the only game in town like some low snow years Kenai, SoHi and other teams can bring a bus in and access the trails. And since it'll be a shorter bus ride, that'll mean longer training sessions and not everyone will be all bunched up on the same trail," he said.
Holt said the new trail access wouldn't have been possible without the cooperation of several individuals and entities. He said Wilder Construction and Carl High, the Department of Transportation district superintendent, provided invaluable planning time, as well as labor and materials.
"Carl was the real catalyst for getting this project accomplished," Holt said.
To learn more about the Tsalteshi Trails, visit the trail association's Web site at www.tsalteshi.org.
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