Kodiak Island Borough Parks and Recreation Committee

Locals annotate maps with details of how recreational areas and facilities could be improved at a recreation summit held by the Kodiak Island Borough Parks and Recreation Committee on Tuesday.

KODIAK — The Kodiak Island Borough Parks and Recreation Committee held a recreation summit, Tuesday evening, during which committee members solicited input from the public. Comments provided by locals will be considered as part of a major update being made to the most recent Kodiak Island Borough Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan, which was completed in 1981.

Patrick Saltonstall, the chair of the committee, explained that PRC usually meets for a trail summit twice a year. However, they decided to use the opportunity for a slightly different purpose on Tuesday.

“This year, we decided to focus more on urban trails and, rather than call it a trail summit, we’re going to call it a recreation summit,” he said. “We’re going to be talking about … more than just trails around town.”

According to Saltonstall, with the borough disposing of lands and pushing certain developments, PRC are looking to determine what locals prioritize when it comes to recreation.

“What trails do we treasure? How many playing fields do we need?” he asked. “We have to establish these things before we develop in a direction where they’re gone, where we need to buy land back.”

The update to the comprehensive plan is a 24 month process, which began this summer. It is made up of six phases: data collection (2 months), data analysis (2 months), public outreach and visioning (4 months), processing stakeholder input (4 months), plan finalization (8 months), and follow-up and implementation activities (4 months). The committee is currently in the public outreach phase.

As such, over the past few weeks, PRC has been collecting information via an online survey. According to Daniel Mckenna-Foster, of Kodiak Island Borough's Community Planning Department, the survey was sent to Kodiak Island Borough School District, Island Trails Network, various community social media pages and other places. Paper copies were also posted at Big Ray’s, Orion’s Mountain Sports and 58 Degrees North. So far, PRC has gathered nearly 300 responses.

One of the key ideas, Mckenna-Foster said, is “enshrining the importance of recreation in Kodiak.”

At the summit, Mckenna-Foster presented a local survey conducted in the late 1970s, which showed that the most popular activities at the time were: driving for pleasure, sport fishing and picnicking.

“Obviously, things have changed in Kodiak since then … especially with recreation,” Mckenna-Foster said. “Things are a little bit different: the way people recreate, how much time they have, where they like to go, which land is available for recreation.”

The survey results show that 14 hours a week is the average amount of time that responders spend on recreational activities. The most popular activities were cited as hiking/walking/running and hunting/fishing/camping. The most popular locations to do these activities are Ft. Abercrombie, Near Island and Trails Outside of Town (Barometer, Kashevaroff, Termination Point, Sharatin) for hiking/walking/running and the Buskin Area, Pasagshak and White Sands for hunting/fishing/camping.

Those who took the survey were also asked what improvements are most needed when it comes to Kodiak’s parks and recreational facilities. Among the top answers given were trail maintenance, more indoor facilities and more pedestrian/bike access to recreational areas.

“The committee has been looking at trying to think about a vision for this,” Mckenna-Foster said. “What’s going to be a driving idea of recreation in Kodiak?”

Following a presentation of the findings of the new survey, locals in attendance took part in a mapping exercise.

Several tables were set up, on which three aerial maps showing different parts of Kodiak (the city, Bells Flats and the entire road system) were placed. Members of the public were invited to annotate the maps with specific details about changes or improvements they would like to see made to parks and facilities.

“We want to get all of your feedback about, first of all, where you’ve observed conflicts or issues with access, user groups, maintenance – anything. And also where would you like to see additional infrastructure or investment,” Mckenna-Foster said. “And, it could be anything.”

On the maps, locals wrote things like “develop trail,” with an arrow pointing to the Beaver Lake area; “Bathrooms and Water,” with an arrow pointed to Hillside Park; and “open in winter,” written over where a gate has been installed at the bottom of Pillar Mountain.

These maps will eventually be uploaded to the project website.

Another use of the survey and the summit was for the PRC to garner input on its capital improvements project list. There are four items on the list: Teen Center improvements, trail improvements to the Saltery area, a bear viewing along Sargent Creek and the installation of a bike path from town to Bells Flats.

“This is kind of a wish list,” Mckenna-Foster said. “The money doesn’t exist yet or hasn’t but allocated, but this is maybe a snapshot of, right now, what people are interested in.”

The survey results pointed to the bike path as the most popular project, followed by a bear viewing area near Sargent Creek.

The PRC’s capital improvement project list is eventually passed to the planning and zoning commission. The PZC then brings the list to the borough, at which point one of the items could make it onto the borough’s CIP list.

Locals can still take the online survey, which can be found at the project website: https://bit.ly/2z5uCaO.

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