A sign welcomes employees and visitors at the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration building on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign welcomes employees and visitors at the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration building on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna community garden and trail project moves forward

The garden trail would be housed on a 7-acre portion of a borough-owned plot near SoHi.

A community-led effort to build a Japanese-style garden and trail is moving one step further after the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted last week to enter into a community trail management agreement on borough land within Soldotna.

The garden trail, which will be built and managed through Shimai Toshi Garden Trails Inc., would be housed on a 7-acre portion of a borough-owned plot near Soldotna High School.

The assembly voted seven to two on the ordinance authorizing a 20-year agreement with the borough and the Shimai Toshi Garden Trails Inc. Shimai Toshi Garden Trails Inc. is a nonprofit organization made up of community members who want to see a new green space, and promote “mental health and educational opportunities through community activities, gardens and trails,” the ordinance said.

The ordinance is the first phase to create a garden trail. The organization was awarded a $20,000 grant they intend to use to create the garden and trails. The organization would develop, maintain and manage the community garden and trails.

Assembly members Norm Blakeley and Brent Hibbert voted against the authorization of an agreement. Hibbert said because of current fiscal uncertainty, the borough may want to keep the land in case they need to sell it later.

Assembly member Brent Johnson said he would back the ordinance because “an active group of people” came to the Feb. 25 borough meeting in support of the ordinance.

Assembly member Jesse Bjorkman also supported the ordinance, saying nothing in the trail agreement would stand in the way of the borough selling the parcel.

The ordinance is the first phase toward the garden’s completion, authorizing Mayor Charlie Pierce and the borough to enter into a trail and garden management agreement. The next phase will look at the garden and trail’s development.

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