Kenai offers local business support during dipnetting

The offer is meant to assist local businesses financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Kenai is looking to boost local businesses ahead of dipnetting season, which is set to begin next month.

From now until July 1, businesses or nonprofits that have an address within city limits can apply for a free business listing or event advertisement on Dipnet Kenai, an app designed and run by the city that provides information and resources about the local fisheries during the dipnetting season.

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander told the Clarion on Tuesday that the offer is meant to assist local businesses that have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and “help reclaim the momentum of Kenai’s economy.”

“The city of Kenai is committed to providing meaningful support to our local businesses and nonprofits that serve our community,” Ostrander said in a Tuesday press release from the city. “Offering free advertising was one way for us to do that at no cost to the City.”

The advertising spots on the Dipnet Kenai app normally cost $250, according to the release.

The app, which first launched in 2017, provides current fish counts, weather information, tide tables, live webcam feeds, and interactive map and other resources useful for dipnetters. While using the app, Alaskans will see advertisements for local Kenai businesses that they may not otherwise come across. Ostrander said that the city can also send push notifications through the app to alert anglers quickly about important information, such as a sudden tide shift. The app is free and available for both iPhone and Android.

Applications for free advertising are available on the city’s website, www.kenai.city.

The dipnet fishery on the Kenai River opens on July 10 and closes on July 31. The city has implemented some new protocols for their fishery in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ostrander said.

The major change that anglers will notice is that all city-operated fee stations at the North and South Kenai beach as well as the city dock will be cashless. Only credit and debit cards can be used to pay fees this year, which Ostrander recognized will cause some frustration, given that the majority of transactions last year used cash. The fee handlers will also be behind protective barriers and communicate with visitors via an intercom — visitors will swipe their cards at the fee station, and no cards or cash will change hands.

Additional hand-washing stations have also been set up at bathrooms, Ostrander said.

Ensuring that everyone maintains a social distance of 6 feet, however, will be difficult given the number of people who visit the fishery every year. Ostrander said that last year 16,434 transactions were recorded by city fee stations, which is relatively low when compared to past years.

Ostrander said its hard to predict how the pandemic will affect the number of dipnetters who come to the city. Dipnetting in the personal use fishery is only open to residents of Alaska. Ostrander said that he’s seen a slight increase in Alaskans traveling within the state due to their limited options. On the other hand, the idea of standing shoulder to shoulder on the Kenai beach may deter some who are still worried about contracting the virus.

Ostrander said that the city has the ability to restrict access to the dipnet fishery if there is a surge in cases locally, but as of Tuesday the plan is to open as normal, with the additional health and safety measures in place.

For more information on the Kenai dipnet fishery rules and regulations, visit the website for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game at adfg.alaska.gov.

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