Voices of the Peninsula: Is a new south beach road really the best solution?

  • By Sherry Lewis
  • Wednesday, October 7, 2015 4:58pm
  • Opinion

I must be missing something, regarding the recent news article about the City of Kenai purchasing property and building an access road to the south beach of the Kenai River. They are spending an awful lot of money to build a road that will facilitate traffic to the beach during dip netting. The rationale for the purchase is that, primarily, the three private homes in the area experience trespassing.

If the trespassing the owners are experiencing involves people regularly or even intermittently unlawfully entering their homes, strolling across their yards, or other similar activities, I’d be very upset too! I would also have to realize that the world is not full of only honest folk and these sorts of things unfortunately occur. But, everything I have read says nothing of the sort. The “trespassing” is occurring on the property that legally goes to the mean high tide line. Said otherwise, technically, each and every one of us, forget the many dip netters, routinely have trespassed on their property. Furthermore, we do it at times other than during the two weeks of dip netting.

And for this, a grant was awarded to build a road.

What may be other ramifications after the road is built?

1) People will continue to trespass on private beach property, for 365 days of the year.

2) The new road, at least while not degrading wetlands by being built across the middle of them, will lead to just that. How? Folks on 4-wheelers, pedestrians, and maybe automobiles will be presented with a newly accessible area to traverse. For two weeks of year they may just go to and from the beach to dip net. But the remainder of the year the road will be fair game for folks to wander and explore an area more easily available to them than previously. Trash, random elimination, new trails, messes made by vehicles being stuck then unstuck, the list of possibilities is endless and the wetlands are the target.

3) Has anyone dialed in the annual maintenance cost for this road? Was it even considered?

4) Better be a good road too. I’m no engineer but it seems the wetlands may just want to absorb all that gravel, and pretty quickly too.

5) The very large home, the one closest to the river, will be purchased by this grant. I’m sure the owners are sorely relieved, as I understand that they have been trying to sell that house for several years. What a deal!

6) But wait a minute. The rationale for the purchase of this house and the other properties is that they will be sold to help recoup some of the costs. That sounds wonderful and businesslike. Except for one thing: won’t the new owners also endure some degree of trespassing? Will the City need to buy them out in the future too? And so on and so on? Logic fails to engage.

All I can think of is the scenario all of us are familiar with, in some form. Mine is the one where people buy homes nearby a large airport, or underneath the flight path. They do so knowing it’s there. Not too much later though, they begin petitions hoping to close down the airport. A good friend of mine has an acquaintance who lives in Augusta, Georgia. Golfers recognize Augusta as the host city for perhaps the largest and most important golf tournament in the world, the Masters. My friend tells me that this woman leaves Augusta during the week or so preceding the event as well as during, almost two weeks, simply because the city becomes something she never signed on for. Way too much traffic, noise, crowds, businesses inundated, and on and on. Does she complain that the Masters should be moved? No, she understands that’s the nature of her hometown. She bought a home under the flight path. She has determined options on how she can best deal with it. She does not demand that the City of Augusta take care of her for this oh so brief period of time.

But in our case, perhaps the City of Kenai could take care of these property and homeowners. One of the owners just up the beach took care of it himself. He erected a fence from the bluff behind his house out to the mean high tide line. Yes, it stops traffic during high tides, but only for a relatively brief time.

I have absolutely no doubt that the City of Kenai would spend far less money and have absolutely none of the ramifications stated in 1 through 6 above, none, if it simply followed the example of the fellow who built his own barrier. Do so for the other property owners. It would help keep folks from trespassing as much. Not just during dip netting but for the rest of the year.

Return the grant monies, if possible. Surely, surely the funds could be better used elsewhere! Otherwise, how is it even possible to imagine that almost $2 million dollars needs to be spent for a targeted period of two weeks, for three affected homeowners?

I understand another benefit of the new road would be to reduce the time and distance folks have to drive to get to the south beach. Yes, technically it would. Obviously it would. Considering the current entry onto the beach at Dunes Road with the entry to the beach at the new road, is it so important to save a very generous estimate of five minutes or a quarter to a third of a mile by spending $2 million? I shake my head pondering those figures especially when I consider that a person would have to drive that same distance or a bit more just to access the new road, taking about the same amount of time to do so. Finally, what about high tides? The tides occasionally are sufficiently high enough to stop traffic regardless of any fencing. No road can successfully overcome that matter. Even with just one owner and his fence, it is correct that the new road would avoid that blockade. Is the road construction expenditure even conscionable when, again with a very generous estimate, traffic may only be blocked for three or maybe four times during one season of dip netting?

I welcome a response. Otherwise, I will remain convinced, as I stated in the beginning of this letter, that I must be missing something.

Sherry Lewis lives in Kenai.

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