Kenai Peninsula Borough officials are asking for the public’s help picking out which state lands the borough should gain ownership of as part of its long-standing municipal entitlement land grant.
To help, borough residents are being encouraged to use an online mapping tool and survey that will allow them to pick lands and comment on the fate of which 28,000 acres the borough ultimately chooses.
The Mandatory Borough Act of 1964 and the Municipal Entitlement Act of 1978 give the borough the power to receive a total of 155,780 acres from the state, according to the project’s website. The borough received its first lands from the state in 1966 and the current 28,000 acres up for consideration would conclude its original entitlement grant.
The public input land survey will be available online at http://www.borough.kenai.ak.us/landmgt/entitlements/projectinformation until Feb. 28.
Afterward, the resulting recommendations — a hybrid of public comment and borough staff expertise — will go to the borough planning commission in March and then likely to the borough assembly in April. The public will have additional opportunities to comment on the lands selected during that public process as well.
The land management staff also will be on hand to present, answer questions and assist residents using the online map with public laptop stations available from 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at the Borough Annex, 206 E. Pioneer Ave. Suite 1.
Marcus Mueller, borough land management officer, said the borough would like the public’s comments to help decide what lands might best fit municipal purposes and locate lands with local importance.
“Essentially we are asking the public to help us answer that question and because lands are so diverse and because people’s interest in public lands are also very diverse, what we are asking them to really provide (is) what their perceptions are and what their values are on the state lands that might be of interest to them,” he said.
“So whether that’s a piece of property that’s in their back yard, their favorite place to pick berries or hunt moose. Whatever that is we want to get that input.”
Opportunities for feedback are threaded into the survey and map so residents can engage the borough in a direct way, Mueller said. The process is not required by borough or state regulations, he said.
Public recommendations will be more than a simple comment, but not quite a vote, he said. Rather, they serve in an advisory capacity.
“It is really going to be a new kind of input because we’ve never had this ability to receive input in this way before,” he said. “... People’s input is going to shed light on the qualities of land and it will help us make a better assessment of each particular piece of state property so that we can relate that to municipal objectives.”
Most of the best lands in areas that have long-established populations from Nikiski to Homer have already been selected and received by other entities, he said.
For example, he said there are only a handful of municipal properties in Moose Pass.
“There’s 10,000 acres of state land around Moose Pass,” he said. “So, for the residents of Moose Pass this municipal entitlement effort is close to home. It will really make a difference for them in what lands they have to work with.”
Other areas that have a lot of state land for borough consideration, Mueller said, include areas north of Seward, near Summit Lake, near Hope, and around Cooper Landing in addition to the land on the west side of Cook Inlet and in the Kachemak Bay area.
The borough’s land management division will present information and demonstrate how to use the online map and submit comments at the following Advisory Planning Commission meetings:
■ Cooper Landing — Wednesday, 6 p.m., Cooper Landing Community Hall
■ Anchor Point — Feb. 12, 7 p.m., Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce
The land management staff will also be on hand to present, answer questions and assist residents using the online map with public laptop stations available during the following times:
■ Seward — Monday, 3-7 p.m. 302 Railway Ave Suite 122
■ Homer — Feb. 6, 3-7 p.m. 206 E Pioneer Ave Ste #1
■ Soldotna — Feb. 13, 2-7 p.m., George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building, 144 N. Binkley St.
■ Soldotna — Feb. 19, Noon, George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building, 144 N. Binkley St.
Assembly and planning commission members will receive a project update from the Land Management Division and have the opportunity to use the project interactive map.
Brian Smith can be reached at email@example.com.