These are busy times for the city of Homer.
Natural gas is making its way to the southern peninsula. Work on the Deep Water Dock is under way. Harbor work is planned to begin soon. And the well-used Homer Spit Trail is due for an extension, which will bring a smile to those who put the trail to good use. That work also will provide a staging area and rest-rooms for cruise ship passengers and address some harbor concerns.
Funding for the project comes from two different sources, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and a cruise ship head tax.
A portion of the cruise ship head tax also is being used to make improvements to the Deep Water Dock and construct two restrooms in Homer downtown area, one near the WKFL Park and one near the intersection of Pioneer Avenue and Bartlett St.
“For the whole thing, including restrooms, I’m thinking $4 million,” said Carey Meyer, Homer’s public work director, of the Spit Trail project.
When complete, the work will add another 1.7 miles to the existing trail. It will tie into the existing trail’s end near the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, continue to the Homer Spit Road-Freight Dock Road intersection, continue above the edge of the harbor and tie in with the existing boardwalk, which will be widened to match the 10-foot width of the trail.
At Fish Dock Road, the trail will leave the harbor area, align with Homer Spit Road and continue to End of the Road Park, the parking area between the ferry terminal and Land’s End Resort. The route of the trail in that section helps route foot traffic away from the industrial portion of the Spit, according to Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins.
Two spurs are planned for the trail. One, at the Homer Spit Road-Freight Dock Road intersection, will continue past the load-launch area of the harbor and follow above the harbor to a staging area for cruise ship passengers at the base of the Deep Water Dock. The second spur veers off near Ice Dock Road, and continues to the entrance of the harbor.
“That’s a pretty important part for us, too” said Hawkins of the spur along the harbor entrance that ties in some with some erosion control work in that area that has been “a long-time goal for us to address.”
The project also includes paving and construction of a restroom at the End Of the Road Park, two viewing platforms along the harbor and a dozen rest areas with benches and interpretive signage.
The city has hired Dan Nelson as the project manager. The project is nearing 95 percent completion of the design phase, with the design being done by Kinney Engineering of Anchorage.
“They have quite a big of trail experience, including some work on the Coastal Trail,” said Meyer.
Landscaping will be added at the Homer Spit Road-Freight Dock Road intersection, what is known as a “gateway” area, near the viewing platform to be constructed at that corner of the harbor.
“There will be some signage about the harbor and some landscaping to keep it consistent what the Spit and a bermed area planted in beach grass with some logs, reminding the public about beach erosion and the importance of storm berms,” said Carey.
With 1 percent for art included in the project budget, a meeting with area artists was held last week.
“Proposals are due to the city in May,” said Meyer.
Hawkins sees the signage as an opportunity to also showcase local scientific work.
“We’ve got the arts group, but also a group that is more from the science community that is talking with Meyer about the interpretive signage,” said Hawkins. “We’re really blessed to have this great science community here. Let’s pull them in.”
Following a final review of the design, Meyer said he expects the project will be bid this summer with time for work to begin before the season is over.
“I think what we are anticipating happening is that the restrooms will be constructed this summer and up and operating by the end of the summer,” said Meyer. “And we think that probably the boardwalk is something we’d like to complete late this summer, taking advantage of the shoulder time after Labor Day.”
Scheduling around Spit activity has been a concern.
“That’s one of the challenges of the project in general, to do this construction with the least amount of impact on tourists and the public,” said Carey. “We’ll try to get some of those parts of the project that have the highest potential of impacting visitors towards the end of summer, with a lot of the trail work probably being completed early next summer.”
When all is said and done, “we’ll end up with a trail that completely encompasses the harbor rim and connects you back to town,” said Hawkins. “I think it’s something that benefits everybody. I think everybody enjoys trails.”
Numerous public meetings on the Spit Trail project have resulted in public input at several levels.
“We hope the result is a project that everybody can enjoy,” he said.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.