Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 9:46 PM on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Calvin and Coyle Trail: An in-town oasis, by and for the community

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff writer


Photographer: Lindsay Johnson, Homer News

The Calvin and Coyle nature trail passes through a variety of habitats on its way to a viewing platform at the edge of the Beluga Lake wetlands (top right).

On Saturday, the public is invited to celebrate a new and improved nature trail in Calvin and Coyle Woodland Park with nature-based activities and a barbecue picnic. And clean, dry feet.

After nearly two years of work, the Calvin and Coyle trail is complete with a new route, boardwalk and signage for anyone who wants an escape to nature in the comfort of city limits.

Located at the end of Mariner Drive, just past Paul Banks Elementary School on East End Road, the park trail winds 1 ½ miles through trees and meadows, over streams and close to the Beluga Lake wetlands.

The park is named for two friends, D. Bailey Calvin and Maurice J. Coyle, who donated the original 18 acres to the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust in 1991. In 1997, Harry Buxton donated 10 adjacent acres to create the nearly 29-acre park that now exists.

In keeping with the donors' wishes and the mission of the land trust, the land's primary function is for education and habitat preservation.

The park trail had been popular with recreational users and school groups until spruce bark beetles killed many of the trees and the surface became too soggy to be commonly accepted as fun.

"The initial trail has always been wet, kind of a hip boot kind of trail," said Dave Brann, who worked and volunteered on the project.

Signs pointed out features lost in the beetle kill, adding to the frustration of mud and mosquitos.

But with help from its friends in the community, the land trust set out to restore the trail's function by enhancing its form.

"We're not educators, we're not trail builders, that's not what we do, but we work together with the others so what we do works with what they do," said land trust communications and development assistant Nina Daley.

The land trust and Homer Soil and Water Conservation District secured funding from the Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation recreational trails program, designed the trail and organized the building process with the conservation district's trails crew. Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies worked with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and teachers at Paul Banks to develop material for 10 new trail-side interpretive signs.

Volunteers of all ages contributed by hauling lumber, building kiosks and submitting drawings of flora and fauna for the signs.

"It's really a community effort organizationally and people-wise to make this trail good for everybody. It's just really neat. It's a great part of Homer," said Marie McCarty, executive director of the land trust.

Much of the trail is now double-planked boardwalk, with dirt sections and bridges where appropriate. Anyone who can walk will be able to tour the trail without wearing boots or muddy feet.

"People who thought it was great last year are going to be really amazed this year. It's incredible how much it's improved," Daley said.

Reduced mud factor means increased enjoyment for many, which conservation district special projects coordinator Devony Lehner said is the whole idea.

"Making a trail both more pleasurable for people to use and better for the environment... is a real valuable way of engaging local folks in becoming more connected with it," she said.

The trail is good for the wildlife as well as the people. The boardwalk protects soils and vegetation while the size of the park provides a corridor between development on East End Road and the Homer Airport Critical Habitat Area.

It was a designated "birding hotspot" during shorebird festival, and is now filled with songbirds. Swans are sometimes seen from the viewing platform.

"It's pretty contiguous bit of land which allows the native species to come in without having alterations made to it by man," said Leslie Slater, wildlife biologist for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

A variety of habitats make it a great place for both the birds and the larger beasts of the Homer area. Moose may be found there year-round, though now is prime for calf watching.

Whether it's for the fauna, the flora, for exercise or just the air, the Calvin and Coyle nature trail is a place in the heart of Homer to enjoy nature.

"Every time I go out there it's just this quick little mental health walk. There's sort of a birch grove partway in that has this dabbled light thing going on. It's just a really nice place. It's easy and there's not tons of people there," McCarty said.

Fun in the Forest will be held noon-2 p.m. Saturday at the Park. There will be a hunt for unnatural objects along as well as a natural object scavenger hunt. Guides also will be posted along the trail to answer questions and point out natural treasures.

Parking is limited at the trailhead, though the trail may be accessed by a side trail from the Paul Banks parking lot.

For more information, call the Land Trust at 235-3678 or visit www.kachemaklandtrust.org.

Lindsay Johnson may be reached at lindsay.johnson@homernews.com.