A boat is tethered to the shore of Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska on Oct. 11, 2017 during a fly fishing trip. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

A boat is tethered to the shore of Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska on Oct. 11, 2017 during a fly fishing trip. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna sees small dip in summer visitors

From July to September, Soldotna saw only a small decrease in visitors despite a poor salmon run.

“We had almost 19,000 visitors come the the visitor’s center during that period,” said Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shannon Davis in her third-quarter report to Soldotna City Council at Wednesday night’s meeting. “That number was only slightly down from last year despite the low return of red salmon to the Kenai River.”

Visitor numbers have been steadily declining for several years, but Davis points to a change in busing for the drop.

“We used to get buses in almost daily,” she said. “They don’t stop at the visitor’s center anymore.”

The low salmon run did impact the city in other ways, Davis said.

“Know that Soldotna wasn’t unaffected by the bad fishery this year,” she said. “While the city saw an increase in taxable sales in the first and second quarter, third quarter was down 7 percent over last year.”

The overall picture, Davis said, remains healthy with just a 1 percent drop in taxable sales across the first three quarters.

“While we, at the chamber, are unable to predict or control the fish funds on the Kenai, we will continue to give 100 percent towards growing and diversifying our economy,” Davis said.

Davis pointed to several events hosted by the chamber throughout the summer that brought visitors and residents to Soldotna Creek Park, including the weekly concert series Music in the Park.

“We frequently saw 700 to 1000 people there,” she said. “Revenue-generating measures that we put in place were successful and they helped offset our costs. We’re currently looking for new, larger partnerships for 2019.”

Looking ahead for the fourth quarter, Davis said the chamber is encouraging residents to shop in Soldotna for the holiday season and preparing for Christmas in the Park, which will be Dec. 1 at 4:30 p.m. at Soldotna Creek Park.

Reach Kat Sorensen at ksorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

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