To the Editor,
Increasingly in the last decades Womens Bay has become a magnet for locals and tourists. Women’s Bay is beautiful and the wildlife is astounding, even for people who drive through multiple times daily.
The Emperor Geese spend several months a year here and are a great draw along with the salmon and, of course, the bears. The highway, including the bridges, has very little parking, crossing, or even standing options for the crowds that accumulate.
It is a serious traffic safety hazard with pedestrians not adequately focused on vehicles at highway speeds standing right at the side of the road, on the bridges and crossing back and forth. Cars and trucks park in the middle of the highway lanes to watch the bears. The phrase “accident waiting to happen” could not be more relevant.
I propose that a plan be drafted and prioritized to build a bike/walking path between the fairgrounds and Marine Hill linking the wildlife and fishing areas between the creeks and intertidal zones. Multiple parking areas should be considered, along with the addition of pedestrian lanes to the Russian Creek, Sargent Creek and Salone Creek bridges with barriers between them and traffic.
Separated pedestrian/bike bridges could also be considered as an alternative. Boardwalks and platforms reminiscent of the Potter Marsh development along that section of highway and into the intertidal zone would allow a greater quality experience for enjoying birds, bears, the drama of salmon spawning season, and for staging fishing gear. We might want to consider fish-cleaning stations, picnic tables, benches and bathrooms.
The future of Alaska lies in economic diversification. Tourism is increasingly based on outdoor activities. Quality of life for locals and opportunity for visitors demands safe and attractive development.
The list of potential partners and/or sponsors for this project is many and varied. Significantly the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust has decided to set up a committee to explore the possibilities. The idea has been favorably discussed in Island Trails Network board meetings as well as Borough Parks and Rec committee meetings.
Part of the pitch is that this expense be considered a pre-emption of a wrongful death lawsuit on the state and borough, which seems likely given human nature and behavior along the highway. We might better spend it now on assets of value rather than later on lawyers and plaintiffs.
In addition to that, traveling around the state one sees many great examples of public projects that enhance and accommodate recreation and wildlife viewing. There is Creamers Field in Fairbanks, Potter Marsh and the Coastal Trail in Anchorage, and multiple other long bike or multiuse paths such as the Parks Highway, Turnagain, Seward, etc. These are great examples of the kind of community assets that promote healthy outdoor activity for residents and tourists.
Kodiak can have nice things, too.