Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SOLdotna's Proposed Park for Cars

All right, I am fan of parks, and a community can't have enough places for kids to play and others to walk and relax. Have a few barbecue grills set up for people to have a family gathering, maybe a gazebo and band shell for outdoor concerts or plays. Landscape it with lots of trees and flowers. It just makes a town more livable.

SOLdotna has some sweet property right in town and behind Don Jose's. Bordering the Kenai River, the former site of a DOT station was converted into a park area a few years ago. It's mostly lawn and it's played host to the annual Kenai River Festival and a bi-weekly farmers' market and craft booths. It's a great place to fly a kite or play ultimate Frisbee.

Nancy Casey has been the principal designer and the plans have evolved over the past two years. From a relatively simple proposal, the plans have grown to include a veterans memorial (although that was a bit controversial), a pavilion, a plaza square, a refurbished playground, and the possibility of an ice-skating rink.

What's there not to like?

Nancy's first couple of designs also included a small parking lot on the west end of the property; a sensible accommodation for the relaxed use the park has for most of the year.

But the latest plan calls for 1/2 of the existing green space to be turned into 120 parking spaces complete with a center aisle and parking access road.


That's right, take one of one the few free public access points to the Kenai River in the SOLdotna city limits and make a car lot out of half of it so there would be enough parking for those who want to enjoy it.

And if each car had three people in it, that would be 360 folks plus those of us who would walk or bike to the park. It could essentially squeeze 500 or more folks into a fraction of the existing space.

There are access issues for the Soldotna Creek Park. As it is now, you have to cross the five-lane Sterling Hwy from the residential part of town. Because we are SOL in this town, you know how bad summer traffic is right there. Many parents have a legitimate concern about their children biking or walking across the intersection there. Heck, I'm concerned about my own safety when I bike over there. A lot of SOLdotnans still think you get points for clipping a cyclist.

So we will give cars more access and we will destroy 1/2 of the park in the process for the one or two events a year that there might be a need for parking? It's not clear if the city of SOLdotna intends to pave the parking area, but isn't it a bad idea to pave so much area so close to the river? Doesn't the river's health depend on the ground absorbing and filtering run-off before it drains into the river?

I've got a better idea. Keep the original plan for a small parking lot and build a pedestrian bridge across the highway or a culvert tunnel under (like Anchorage's coastal trail access by the lagoon). For those big events, limit parking to the handicapped and elderly. There's plenty of weekend parking across the street and couldn't most SOLdotnan's use a bit of exercise?

Joni M got it right a few years ago, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The word I hear after last night's meeting is that all options are back on the table and there is serious reconsideration of how many parking spaces are needed. Not sure whether pavement is/was part of the plan. Seems like there are a lot of different groups each trying to mold the space to their own wants/desires/visions. While the park is certainly a generous size considering its location, it can't be all things to all people. I think we'll see a few more interations before something final settles out. Nancy may be wondering why she ever agreed to take this on...

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