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Council postpones action on Kachemak Drive path

Posted: April 24, 2013 - 3:07pm
Cars drive up a steep hill on Kachemak Drive just beyond where the Homer Spit Trail ends, at lower right. A study suggested a nonmotorized path that would extend the Spit Trail to the bottom of the hill and then follow the beach along Mud Bay.  Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News
Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News
Cars drive up a steep hill on Kachemak Drive just beyond where the Homer Spit Trail ends, at lower right. A study suggested a nonmotorized path that would extend the Spit Trail to the bottom of the hill and then follow the beach along Mud Bay.

In a work session on April 15 and at the Homer City Council meeting Monday night, the council got in a bit of a tussle with the Parks and Recreation Commission over a misunderstanding on the Kachemak Drive nonmotorized path. Last December, the council appropriated $20,000 in a resolution "to determine the cost of the initial one-half mile of the proposed Kachemak Drive Non-motorized Pathway."

At a work session on April 15, Public Works Director Carey Meyer and Parks and Recreation Commission members discussed an early result of that study: a proposal to build a path from the current end of the Spit Trail along Kachemak Drive to the base of a steep hill and then along the beach on Mud Bay. The trail would then go up an old road from the beach to the airport parking lot, all at a cost of $475,000.

That idea brought some heat from Mayor Beth Wythe and some council members, who thought the resolution directed a study of a path along the road and not the beach. Meyer said he thought people understood that continuing a trail along the steep part of the road was unfeasible because of a drop-off along the eastbound lane shoulder.

That's not what she thought the resolution meant, council member Barbara Howard said.

"We specifically said we want to know from point A to point B," she said.

"Now I'm looking at this, while it's lovely, it's not what I thought we signed up for. I harken back to the camel's nose in the tent."

At Monday night's meeting, Wythe introduced a resolution directing the city to stop all survey, design and engineering work on the pathway. On April 18 at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission meeting, the commission also voted to disband the Kachemak Drive Path Committee. Lewis pulled the resolution from the consent agenda.

Wythe spoke of a general frustration with commissions and committees being given a task or taking on a task, and not acting. Commissions put a drain on staff time who are asked either to record meetings or provide advice, she said.

"We have committees that have turned into perpetual committees of the city of Homer," she said.

To that point, on another resolution, the council accepted the work of the Water and Sewer Rate Task Force, thanked it for its service and dissolved that committee. It will consider a recommended rate schedule at a future council meeting.

In testimony on the path committee, three former members, Bumppo Bremicker, Lynn Burt and Lindianne Sarno, speaking as a tag team to expand their 3 minutes of comments, suggested forming an independent trails committee similar to the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. That group would organize to fund and build a path, much as the Homer Playground Project was formed to rebuild the Karen Hornaday Park playground. Another path advocate, Beth Cumming, asked the council to postpone acting on the resolution until late summer or early fall.

Lewis made a motion to that effect.

"It would give the Kachemak Drive Path Committee time to come up with something, give them time to work before we close it down and see what happens," he said.

With Howard voting no and council member Francie Roberts absent, the council voted to postpone action until September.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

 

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