Policy allows vehicle use for seasonal coal picking

A new beach policy passed at the Feb. 8 Homer City Council meeting came back for reconsideration at Monday’s meeting. On a move for a do-over by council member David Lewis, the council made one change — allowing vehicle use for seasonal coal picking at the Mariner Park Beach — but otherwise left the ordinance intact.

“It’s an area that people have traditionally gone coaling,” Lewis said. “Being open from Oct. 31 to March 1 allows people to coal.”

In public testimony, coal pickers pointed out that Mariner Park is an easier place to collect coal, with gentler beaches that are not as heavily cobbled as at Bishop’s Beach.

Lewis proposed an amendment allowing motor vehicle use on the beach between the Mariner Park beach access and the mouth of  Beluga Slough. Council members Heath Smith and Gus VanDyke made another suggestion, restricting access from the south end of the Mariner Park beach to the Ocean Drive Loop seawall. That amendment didn’t specify how vehicles would get to the beach from the parking lot. Unlike at Bishop’s Beach, there is no clearly defined entrance to the beach.

With the amendment allowing seasonal driving for coal collecting at Mariner Park, the new policy also has these changes:

• Define beach and berm areas and ban parking and driving on beach areas except where exempted;

• Establish fines from $25 to $500 for driving in restricted areas;

• Allow the use of motorized vehicles west of the Bishop’s Beach parking lot and ban driving on the berm in front of Beluga Slough east of the parking lot;

• Ban motorized vehicles on the Homer Spit outside of the seasonal coal picking area;

• Ban motorized vehicles east of a vacated easement near the Bay Club on Kachemak Drive.

The ordinance took effect on Tuesday. The seasonal opening for vehicles at Mariner Park ends next Tuesday.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.