Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:11 PM on Wednesday, July 13, 2011

'Scenic byway' official

Route between Seldovia, Homer dedicated in ceremony today

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


A Seldovia ribbon-cutting ceremony today officially welcomes a 14-mile Homer-to-Seldovia route on Kachemak Bay as one of 15 scenic byways in the state.

Spearheaded by a grassroots effort in Seldovia, the Kachemak Bay Waterway Scenic Byway goes from the tip of the Spit, around Gull Island, through Eldred Passage, back into Kachemak Bay and to Seldovia.

A dedication ceremony will be held at the Seldovia Ferry Terminal at 10:30 a.m., with Marc A. Luiken, commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, in attendance. The public is invited to a reception in the harbor parking lot. It begins at 11:30 a.m. on the waterfront and will continue as each boat of guests arrives. Visitors are invited to bring a side dish or favorite dessert to share.

Efforts to secure the designation began last fall when Seldovia resident Peggy Keesecker attended a state chamber of commerce meeting in Juneau and met Marcheta Moulton, a DOTPF planner.

"I shared with her about Seldovia, how we're working hard to develop the place as a destination and she said she thought she could help us," said Keesecker. "She traveled to Seldovia, worked side-by-side with us and encouraged us every step of the way."

As described by Brenda Hewitt, DOTPF chief communications officer, the scenic byways designation serves as a marketing tool. Information posted on the web describes the route, a map, area photos, a calendar of upcoming events and visitor contact information.

"For the most part, it really, truly is all about marketing. A tour operator can include this as part of their selling tool. It makes a great appeal for visitors to say, 'Oh, look at the things we'll see,'" said Hewitt. "It doesn't restrict anybody. ... Sometimes people get the idea that the designation means a restriction."

The new scenic byway connects to the Sterling Highway Scenic Byway, south segment, a 29-mile stretch from Anchor Point to the end of the Homer Spit. It also fits in with the Alaska Marine Highway Gulf Coast Route, a 3,100-mile course extending as far west as Unalaska.

The designation is an opportunity for Seldovia to pursue community projects through grants available to the 96 designated byways in 39 states across the country. As examples of such projects, Keesecker noted the visitor area at Bird Creek, along the Seward Highway All American Road, and a visitor information center near Denali National Park. Seldovia has drafted a 50-item list, the first one to be located near the water.

"We were able to get the city council to give us a piece of land on the waterfront where we want to build a pavilion and start doing some improvements along the waterfront," said Keesecker.

Another project being considered is construction of a building at a Seldovia campground and RV park that could be used for such activities as family get-togethers and musical events. A bike trail to Outside Beach also is on the list.

"Most of our projects we see not only enhancing the community, but also for people that live in Seldovia. We're not doing this for the outside world, although they will definitely travel through and enjoy it. It's for us. To make Seldovia a better place for all of us," said Keesecker.

Tim P. Dillon of Seldovia and part of the grassroots effort said applying for the byway-specific grants isn't limited to Seldovia.

"It's interesting because anyone on the scenic byway's viewscape — in other words, if you can see the scenic byway from the end of the Homer Spit to Seldovia — can write a grant application. You don't have to be part of any group," said Dillon.

The group that came together from all corners of Seldovia to pursue the scenic byway designation was fueled by a common goal.

"We all feel the same about Seldovia. We all want to see it thrive. We're looking toward the future of our town and a better economic outlook," said Keesecker.

Water transportation to today's festivities is available aboard Alaska Marine Tours' "Discovery" and the Seldovia Bay Ferry's "Kachemak Voyager.

For more information on the Alaska Scenic Byway program, visit www.dot.state.ak.us/stwdplng/scenic/index.shtml

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.