The north side of the Kasilof River will get a parking lot, a vehicle turnaround and dune fencing among other improvements by next summer.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water released its final plans for the development on the north side of the Kasilof River’s mouth Friday. The plans, which have been more than a year in the making, would add more parking and public access to the river’s north side, an increasingly popular personal use dipnet and birdwatching site.
The final plan includes a paved parking lot with 132 total spaces — 66 spots of 12 feet by 20 feet, 33 spaces of 12 by 43 feet and 33 spaces of 12 by 54 feet. Unlike previous plans, which included a dirt parking lot, the Division of Mining, Land and Water will pave the lot because of long-term maintenance concerns, said Christy Colles, one of the natural resource managers working on the project.
“It also made it more accessible for handicap — it makes it ADA compliant to get down to the mouth,” Colles said. “We’re going to have lines. Our plan is to stripe it … to try to maximize as many cars as we can get in there.”
The construction will include approximately 3,150 feet of permanent dune fencing with pedestrian access points, a pedestrian pathway along the parking lot, a bird viewing platform extending almost to the beach and space for portable toilets and dumpsters. The road will also include a new two-way vehicle beach access point as well as a vehicle turnaround further down the road and parking spaces for law enforcement.
When the plans were first offered, they included multiple parking areas accommodating up to 315 vehicles. When the department first issued the plans, there were no public hearings scheduled. During the public comment period, many residents objected to the plan and called for a public hearing to discuss the development, which the department agreed to. The managers returned to the public with four scaled-back concepts, which ranged from very little development to a plan that entailed two parking lots, vehicle turnarounds and road signs.
At a March meeting held in Kasilof, many Kenai Peninsula residents weighed in on the problems they saw with access to the beach. A major concern was parking along the road and visitors trampling the dunes during the personal use dipnet season. The added parking and dune fencing was meant to address those issues.
Others expressed concerns about disturbance to the migratory birds in the area. The managers took all the comments into consideration, Colles said.
“A lot of people said that (viewing) platform wasn’t good, so we moved that over,” Colles said. “That seemed to sort of go with what the comments were asking us to do.”
Construction is slated to begin in the fall if all goes according to plan, Colles said. Funds for the project have already been appropriated, but the timing may depend on the designing staff’s schedules and how quickly the department can get a proposal out for the work. If they cannot do the construction in the fall, it may extend into the spring of 2017, Colles said.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.