Letter to editor

Letter to editor: Homer Spit should be developed with birding in mind

We are Kenai Peninsula residents who reside outside of Homer but would still like to weigh in on the proposed Doyon development plan at the base of the Homer Spit.

As outdoor enthusiasts, in general, and birding enthusiasts, specifically, we have several greater, overarching concerns about the future of birding on the Homer Spit that should be considered when assessing the proposed Doyon development plan.

Our concerns are:

1. Loss or degradation of bird habitat for breeding birds and migrants (dredging, filling, intensive development and commercialization, habitat fragmentation, pollution, etc.).

2. Common activities that disturb birds, moving them out of their preferred habitats if only temporarily (dogs off leashes; disturbances from aviation, off-road vehicles, personal watercraft; drones; etc.).

3. Loss or restricted access to formerly easily accessible birding sites.

4. Loss or degraded viewsheds that eliminate birding opportunities or degrade the birding experience.

These four concerns touch on loss of quantity of bird habitat and numbers of accessible birding sites, and loss of quality in bird habitat and birding experience.

For the past 20 years, we have visited Homer for the expressed purpose of birding five to 10 times annually. Our greatest fear is, as Homer undergoes gentrification and development becomes more dense and intensive, the birds and birding will invariably suffer. (Consider how the very tall, wall-to-wall condo development at Land’s End largely eliminated upland Spit bird habitat there, has hugely disturbed the viewshed, and severely limited birding access.)

And whether Homer residents realize it or not, the Homer Spit is designated as an important bird resource of state, national, and, yes, even international significance. Considering such, it should be no surprise that it is the most frequently visited birding venue in the entire state, bar none. This holds true for both out-of-state and in-state birders. So please make this reality well-known among Homer city authorities and potential developers — Homer, and more specifically the Homer Spit, is the No. 1 birding destination in Alaska and by a wide margin. And bird watching is not only a popular national pastime but birding tourism, especially in Alaska, has become big business.

As outdoor enthusiasts and birders who do not reside in Homer, we exhort residents to do their due diligence when considering the future of the Homer Spit — for the sake of the birds and people. A Homer Spit that retains more than just a modicum of its wildness and remains open to birds and birders would be an amazing legacy. In order to avoid the degradation that invariably comes from over-development consider a model that emphasizes a high quality experience for fewer tourists rather than a lower quality experience for ever greater numbers.

The bottom line: Don’t (incrementally) kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Toby and Laura Burke live in Kenai.

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