Many folks on the Kenai Peninsula, and for that matter, across Alaska, have today’s date — July 10 — circled on their calendar.
Depending on your point of view, it marks the opening of the personal-use dipnet fishery in Kenai, the time to start watching daily sockeye salmon sonar counts and planning an excursion to the peninsula with hopes of filling the freezer with salmon.
For others, it’s time to run for the hills in an attempt to get as far from the madding crowds as possible.
One thing is for certain — it’s about to get a whole lot more crowded here on the central Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai’s late run of red salmon is trickling in, which means thousands of dipnet-wielding Alaskans won’t be far behind. From now until the end of the month, it will seem like every other vehicle on the road will have a dipnet strapped to the roof.
For those of us who call the central Peninsula home, the next three weeks will be an exercise in patience. A quick trip into town won’t be so quick. There will be lines at the grocery store and waits for tables at local restaurants. And when the fish counts spike, expect traffic jams at the fishery access points along Bridge Access Road, Cannery Road and Spruce Street.
With that in mind, we’d like to make a request of all those folks flocking to our beaches and boat launches: We’ll do our best to be patient hosts, but in return, we’d ask for our visitors to keep in mind that to access the resource, you’re traipsing through somebody’s back yard — for the most part figuratively, but sometimes literally.
Over the years, the city of Kenai has done a remarkable job in managing the circus around the personal-use fishery, from providing porta-potties and Dumpsters to upgraded parking areas to dune protection projects. We’d ask fishery participants to cooperate with city personnel and use the facilities provided. Please avoid tramping across private property, and treat the beach like the public space that it is.
Any time you cram thousands of people into a confined space, there are going to be issues. A little patience, respect and common sense will go a long way toward making sure minor annoyances don’t mushroom into major incidents.