Over two decades ago a Soldotna Rotarian had an idea to create handicapped access to the Kenai River so wounded veterans and others with physical challenges could still enjoy the amazing experience of fishing the mighty Kenai. It was no easy task and took several years of perseverance and collaboration with local, state and federal agencies to engineer and permit what today is known as Rotary Park.
Over the years thousands have enjoyed fishing at Rotary Park and the project has become a signature for the Soldotna Rotary Club and a testimony of what can be achieved when a community works together.
Earlier this fall Rotarians gathered for a late afternoon clean-up and maintenance of the popular park. Past President Dr. Matt Pyhala was one of the volunteers.
“Actually it’s a lot cleaner down here this year than it has been in the past. I think that can be attributed to education, people have become more conscientious and have learned what to do with their line if it breaks off or if they spool their line instead of throwing it on the bank they are taking it to a receptacle or somewhere to recycle it. The City of Soldotna has also done a great job of placing more trash receptacles at convenient locations so people have a place to put their trash. I think respect for the outdoors and people taking responsibility for what they do is increasing and speaks highly of the educational efforts that are being made on behalf of the resource,” he said.
Over the years the park has expanded from its original access.
“At the most upstream point there are two handicapped accessible walkways and then west of that is a little island that folks can wade to if they are able and that is all part of the park we are cleaning up on this beautiful autumn evening,” added Pyhala.
On the back side of the island ice had already formed and was thick enough to walk on.
“Easily four inches of ice here where the water is stagnant so we are keeping our fingers crossed for some cold temperatures to grow some ice for our winter events and festivities. It’s been several years since we have been able to cut ice for the ice sculptures for the Peninsula Winter Games. We’ve been missing the opportunity to provide the blocks of ice for the ice carving that is such a huge part of our winter activities. It’s a project our club always looks forward to and we hopefully will be able to do that again this year,” he said.
This year’s Peninsula Winter Games sponsored by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce will be held Jan. 21 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Games include: dog sled rides, kick sleds, giant ice slide, snow machine rides, a scavenger hunt, archery, a kids’ Monopoly Tournament, a Hockey tournament, a free lunch and dinner, and a fireworks show.