Soldotna will install three sets of stairs at Swiftwater Park after receiving a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for erosion prevention activities after enacting an ordinance on Wednesday night.
The stairs will include two sets of proper staircases and a third, short fish walk with a pair of larger and smaller staircases.
“There will be three new, different points of access along Swiftwater,” said Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael. “From the boardwalk downstream, it’s a very steep bank and it’s been challenging but we’ve never had the money to provide access.”
The city of Soldotna had previously received a grant for $25,000 that included a 50 percent match of funds from the city, according to the ordinance. The city was offered an additional $25,000 to continue the project.
“This is a fifty-fifty matching grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife,” said Stephanie Queen, Soldotna’s interim city manager. “We’ve received this grant before and, in this case, they’re allowing the city to contribute our matching funds with funds that have been previously appropriated through our capital funds.”
So the funds being used to match the grant have already been appropriated for the project, therefore the city’s bill will remain the same.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously at Wednesday’s council meeting, will allow the staircase project to move forward.
“The focus of (the stairs) is to funnel and put people into the river in a manner that doesn’t hurt the habitat,” Charmichael said. “By provide those accesses, people by-and-large use them, so it takes the foot traffic off of the habitat.”
Often, impromptu social trails are used to reach the ‘perfect spot,’ Carmichael said.
“This allows us to say ‘can I get you to go on the stairs,’ as opposed to ‘don’t go here,” Carmichael said. “You can engineer and educate, the two keys… We engineer it to get them to go where we want,” and then educate people that the impact to the banks is less when they use the stairs.
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