Baycrest trails face changes

Posted: Friday, November 17, 2000

Cross-country skiing enthusiasts may soon have a new home for the trail head leading to the 25-kilometer Baycrest Ski Trail system.

The Kachemak Nordic Ski Club has asked the Kenai Peninsula Borough for a long-term lease on a 10-acre parcel located on Baycrest Hill west of the Herndon & Thompson Inc. asphalt plant site. The land is privately owned by Robert Pelky.

The borough assembly has scheduled a public hearing on the matter at its meeting in Soldotna on Tuesday.

"This would be an ideal setup," said Dave Brann, vice president of the ski club. "If the assembly approves it Nov. 21, I'll be ready to work on improvements on the 22nd."

Brann said that would amount to grooming trails this winter and working out an agreement with the landowner for use of a parking area. But future plans could mean expanded use of the property for recreational events, perhaps even lighted trails, Brann said.

A new 160-acre subdivision on Diamond Ridge will eliminate access and parking at the Baycrest trail head on Roger's Loop Road, the familiar location used for years by skiers to reach the trail system.

A 60-foot easement there has provided access since 1984. However, the new subdivision has turned the easement into a road, eliminating skier access and parking at the site. There is no other developed public access to the system, and ski club officials say they cannot afford to buy a private parcel to provide trail access or parking, according to Drew Scalzi, who wrote to the assembly about the problem in September while still a member of the assembly.

Scalzi, who since has been elected to the Alaska House or Representatives, said the land would provide long-term stability to the trail system, easy access, sufficient parking and a stadium-like location for staging events. It could also facilitate other amenities the club could not provide before, including lighted trails for night skiing, a warm-up building and restrooms and a small maintenance shop for its current inventory of some $25,000 worth of trail-grooming equipment.

In addition, Scalzi said, it would bolster the club's grant-writing position and create a buffer between existing residential and industrial areas along the Sterling Highway. It also would establish a recreational opportunity across the highway from the Alaska Division of Parks' headquarters for Kachemak Bay State Park that already helps bolster Homer's image as a tourist-friendly destination.

"With the failure of the South Kenai Peninsula Recreation Service Area (a 1999 ballot measure), if falls to volunteer organizations such as Kachemak Nordic Ski Club to provide recreation for borough residents. For 20 years, the club has proven its dedication to borough residents by volunteering thousands of hours. The proposed lease could ensure that that effort continues in the future at Baycrest Ski Trails," Scalzi said.

Kachemak Nordic Ski Club was formed in 1980. It currently has 316 members. Besides the Baycrest system, the club also maintains trail systems at McNeil Canyon Elementary School and Lookout Mountain.

Borough students are the single biggest beneficiary group, according to the ski club. During the winter of 1999-2000, the club put on half a dozen cross-country ski meets for Kenai Peninsula Borough students.

Homer area schools last year alone logged some 2,600 user-days on club trails. Club volunteers keep the trails groomed, coach elementary- and middle-school teams and put on or help with meets, the biography said.

Recent work has been aimed at making the trail system usable year round. The club hopes one day to establish a trail system running from Anchor Point to Cottonwood/Eastland Park on East End Road.

The ski club proposes to lease the borough land at Mile 168 Sterling Highway for a nominal fee, Brann said. Brann said he doesn't anticipate any problem winning the approval of the assembly, since precedent already exists. In 1999, the assembly authorized a similar lease to the Tsalteshi Trail Association near Skyview.

Brann said neighbors of the proposed site also seem to approve of the recreational use.

Hal Spence is a reporter for the Homer News.

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