Homer’s citizens and visitors encompass a wide spectrum of beach users: dog walkers, quiet seekers, coal collectors, off-road vehicle drivers, kayakers, paddle boarders, fat-tire bikers, picnickers, wave-watchers, painters, tide-poolers, birders, educational and recreational class attendees, and the many other user groups I likely forgot.
I believe that a beach policy can be implemented which protects important areas while allowing us all the freedom to enjoy our beaches. With planning and some give and take, there can be (safe) driving on the beach, coal collection, off-leash dog areas, etc. By working with the Parks and Recreation Commission we can ensure that the recommendations for changes in the Beach Policy that they submit to the Homer City Council provide a balanced approach that allows for a wide range of beach use while providing a safe environment for beach users and protection for the sensitive habitat that supports local and migratory wildlife.
As a birder, I believe that the berm that separates Beluga Slough from the beach (currently being used as a roadway and parking area for the cars heading east from the Bishop’s Beach parking area) needs to be protected from vehicle traffic. This is because the slough is such an important resting area for migrating birds, nesting area for locally breeding birds including sandhill cranes and valuable wildlife habitat.
With the development of the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center and the Beluga Slough trails, this area has become an important tourist attraction for Homer. The berm, which would hopefully recover its vegetation, provides physical protection for the slough and upper wetland area which is part of the critical habitat encompassed by our city limits. While the berm and beach area east of the Beach parking area should be restricted from vehicle use, driving to the west toward Anchor Point would continue as under the current policy.
As a birder, I have seen many instances where off-leash dogs have chased birds that are feeding or resting after having flown hundreds or thousands of miles, which is very detrimental to them. I believe that dogs should be on a leash in critical areas during migration and nesting; however, there would be many other areas of the beach where dogs can be off-leash all through the year.
Many Homer area residents and our visitors derive great pleasure and benefit from time spent on the beach. Ensuring the continued health of our beautiful beaches, the safety of our citizens and pets, and the productivity of our natural areas are very important. Come to the meetings and share your needs and desires for the future of Homer’s beaches. A revised beach policy is needed — let’s make this process successful.
Lani Raymond is an avid birder. She lives in Homer.