Kenai River Ranch to remain undeveloped

The Kenai River Ranch property will stay the way it is, at least for the time being.

After more than a year of discussions about the development of the riverfront property on Funny River Road, the Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation announced the final site plan for the property Monday. The riverbank will be actively restored and the Hansen House will remain for a caretaker, but nothing else will change, according to the final site plan.

The state purchased the land in conjunction with the federal Bureau of Land Management in 1997 with funds from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill trust. The land has a conservation easement on it, held by the Bureau of Land Management, according to the project summary from the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation.

“Through the process our planning team was able to understand what improvements visitors would like to see at the Kenai River Ranch … while complying with the Conservation Easement,” the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation wrote on the project’s web page. “The fishing regulations will remain in place and an active restoration of the riparian habitat will benefit the river as well as cleaning up the site.”

The land is jointly managed by the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, as there are fishing restrictions from the bank of the property. Under the final plan, the restrictions would remain the same — bank fishing would be closed from July 1-Aug. 15 each year. Fishing would only be allowed from a boat located more than 10 feet from the shore and not connected to the shore.

Public comment throughout the process was divided between leaving the land entirely alone or developing it for a boat launch. Many of the public comments in favor of a boat launch argued that as the area’s residential population expands, more people will demand access to the river. Currently, there is no boat launch on Funny River Road.

The commenters that opposed any development said adding camping or a boat launch would increase traffic on an already congested road and that the river habitat could be damaged from more fishermen on the banks.

Public comment technically closed in September, after a final public open house, but the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation asked the Kenai River Special Management Area advisory board to weigh in. The board voted to support Concept 1, the plan that ultimately became the final site plan.

The state originally designated $35,000 for the site planning, not for the actual development that would be approved. The actual implementation of the riparian habitat restoration would cost approximately $223,300, according to the project summary.

With the Legislature looking to save wherever it can, there is no money for the project and it may be some time before any restoration actually takes place.

The Kenai River Special Management Area advisory board also requested that the state apply to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees Council for funding to begin the restoration work without waiting for the state, so it’s unclear whether the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation will request the funding from the state this year, said Jack Blackwell, the parks superintendent for the Soldotna and Prince William Sound area.

Blackwell said the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation appreciated all the comments and public involvement.

“Initially, when we started the project, we had thought there would be more support for a boat launch and perhaps even a campground on the property,” Blackwell said.

“But we heard a pretty strong message during the public process, and I think the ultimate site plan took that into consideration.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at

More in News

Courtesy photo / Juneau Raptor Center
This golden eagle was rescued by the Juneau Raptor Center over the summer after being found weak and thin.
Rescue center, birdwatchers look back on 2021

Juneau Christmas bird count was way down this year.

This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (NICT via AP)
Tsunami advisory issued after eruption

An undersea volcano erupted Friday near the South Pacific island of Tonga, triggering concerns of damaging waves across Pacific coastlines

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Multiple public works projects underway in Soldotna

Soldotna City Council received an update on eight different projects

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Hospitalizations rise as state reports increase in COVID cases

There were a total of 112 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Friday

Terri Carter’s class celebrates the National Blue Ribbon award after their assembly at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Friday, Jan 14, 2022. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
A ‘pathway to a brighter and fulfilling future’

Soldotna Montessori Charter School celebrates national achievement

Homer City Council member Rachel Lord discusses her concerns with funding the Alaska Small Business Development Center Homer Business Advisory position during the Jan. 10 council meeting. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Council says ‘yes to small businesses’

Homer City Council votes 4-2 in favor of partially funding the Homer Business Advisory position.

AP Photo / Becky Bohrer
Sightseeing buses and tourists are seen at a pullout popular for taking in views of North America’s tallest peak, Denali, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, on Aug. 26, 2016.
Bridge proposed along section of slumping Denali park road

Landslides in the area go back decades but usually required maintenance every two to three years

A sign directs voters at Soldotna City Hall on March 5, 2019. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Locals to join national voting rights march Saturday

The march in Soldotna is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna approves $32,000 federal grant for airport

The funds were made available through the American Rescue Plan Act for improvement projects at the Soldotna Municipal Airport

Most Read