The Kenai River runs alongside a strip of land near the Sterling Highway on May 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. The City of Soldotna was awarded $360,000 from a federal grant program offered through the U.S. Economic Development Agency to start planning what’s been called a “main street” adjacent to the Kenai River. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River runs alongside a strip of land near the Sterling Highway on May 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. The City of Soldotna was awarded $360,000 from a federal grant program offered through the U.S. Economic Development Agency to start planning what’s been called a “main street” adjacent to the Kenai River. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna gets federal funds to plan revamped riverfront

The project, if completed, would address about 85 acres of land running along the Kenai River

The City of Soldotna will use several hundred thousand dollars in federal grants to start planning what’s been called a “main street” adjacent to the Kenai River.

The city this week was awarded $360,000 from a federal grant program offered through the U.S. Economic Development Agency. City council members approved receipt of the funds Wednesday.

The project, if completed, would address about 85 acres of land running along the Kenai River from Soldotna Creek Park to the Sterling Highway Bridge.

Soldotna Director of Economic and Planning John Czarnezki said Wednesday that the city’s application was one of more than 1,500 that were submitted nationwide. Czarnezki said the city worked closely with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Economic Development District, which helped refine the city’s final application.

“(KPEDD) put us in contact with the right people, so that was super helpful,” Czarnezki said. “Then on top of that, we just had great community support.”

Czarnezki said that, in all, 16 letters of support for the grant were submitted from local stakeholders along with the city’s grant application. Letters were written by local business owners, community leaders and nonprofits, among others.

The goal for the end of the 18-month planning process? A master plan that describes a path forward for the project.

Soldotna City Council members approved in 2019 $90,000 for the project, which was first described as a “Main Street” in Soldotna’s 2015 Downtown Improvement Plan. According to that plan, the goal of the project is to spur private investment, create new jobs and improve quality of life for residents and visitors.

Part of the development of the plan, Czarnezki said, will be working with private landowners along the Kenai River in Soldotna. A public outreach campaign as well as close collaboration with those landowners will be prioritized by the city.

“(The master plan) will incorporate all that work into a single document along with implementation recommendations, which will essentially be, now that we have a plan in place, how do we make it reality?” Czarnezki said.

When it comes to the implementation of the plan, however, Czarnezki said the city hopes to take advantage of the significant federal funding currently available for projects like Soldotna’s.

“We’re hoping to capitalize on the availability of funds and pursue whatever is out there in the form of grants and other assistance,” Czarnezki said.

The Soldotna City Council’s full Wednesday meeting can be viewed on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.

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