At the height of its bloom in August, the wildflower field between the Kenai Spur Highway and Lawton Drive in Kenai was covered in hundreds of brilliantly colored blossoms. Now, it is covered in deep grooves and muddy ruts — the aftermath of an early morning encounter with an intoxicated pickup truck driver.
At least, that’s why Kenai police arrested Josiah McElwain, 19, when they found him in a nearby ditch at 3:30 Monday morning.
“The Kenai Police Department received a report of a truck that was driving back and forth in the field where the city had planted the flowers,” said Kenai Police Sgt. Ben Langham.
When officers arrived on scene, they found McElwain, of Kasilof, who then drove his truck into a nearby ditch and got stuck. He was arrested for driving under the influence, a class A misdemeanor which carries a mandatory sentence of at least 72 hours in jail, use of an ignition interlock device for at least six months and a fine of at least $1,500.
“The way I understand it is, he was actually driving in the field when officers (arrived),” Langham said.
Police are still investigating the incident and trying to determine the extent of the damage.
Kenai Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates estimated that about half of the field had been destroyed.
“Unfortunately for us, we just re-seeded it. We did our fall application last week,” Frates said. “A lot of that, in places that the vehicle travelled, is probably for naught. What it does, is it disrupts the seed bed and will leave areas where we don’t have seed.”
The meadow will likely have to be graded with a tractor and a plane, then re-seeded, Frates said.
The wildflowers growing thickly in the field were the result of hydroseeding, a planting process that uses a mix of seed and mulch. Frates said that process may have to happen again.
“To hydroseed the entire area, we’re probably looking at $5,600,” he said.
While the latest seeding didn’t cost that much, Frates said the field was to be supplemented with a smaller fall and spring seeding, the extent of the damage could necessitate another hydroseeding.
“It’s just an unfortunate incident. There’s a lot of the public, a lot of community residents that just fell in love with that and … for somebody to go and do what they did is just unfortunate, very unfortunate.”
Frates said the type of damage done to the flower meadow isn’t common in Kenai.
“We’ll see vandalism, but not to this (extent). This was pretty malicious,” he said.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at email@example.com.