Symposium connects trails, user groups

Opinions abounded during the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission’s “Homer on the Move!” trail symposium last Saturday. With more than 17 different user groups represented, and more than 40 people in attendance, there wasn’t a shortage of ideas or suggestions about the importance of the public trail system in and around Homer.  

Matt Steffy, chair of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission and facilitator for the symposium, expressed his desire to gain consensus as a result of the symposium.

“This is a really good chance to get all the different groups that use trails together to share ideas and gain consent on the priorities for those trails,” said Steffy.  

Although there were many suggestions on which projects should be a priority for the advisory commission, it was clear that the theme of a pedestrian-friendly Homer was popular.

The Homer Cycling Club emphasized the need for crosswalks and widened roads with bike lanes, and several other groups suggested that priorities be placed on clearing the trails around Homer schools to make safe routes for children to get to school.  

There was also a large amount of interest in making it easier for the public to suggest trail projects to City Hall.  

Deputy City Planner Julie Engebretsen expressed her openness to suggestions and offered that any member of the public with trail safety concerns should contact Parks Coordinator Angie Otteson.  

“We really hope that people will ask for what they want,” said Engebretsen.  “Otherwise no one will pay for it.”

Part of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission’s role is to provide recommendations to the Homer City Council on the allocation of money from the Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails (HART) fund.   

“We have money in the bank to spend on trails, but we don’t get that many public requests for trail projects,” said Engebretsen. 

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission sponsored the trail symposium as a way to look for ideas from the community about where city funds should go toward improving trails. 

The symposium lasted for four hours and consisted of 17, 10-minute presentations from a variety of different user groups, with breaks in-between for networking opportunities. 

Specific organizations with an interest in Homer trails also were given the opportunity to showcase the work they do within the community with booths for interested parties to visit. Representatives from the Kachemak Bay Equestrian Association, Woodard Creek Coalition, State Parks, Homer Bicycling Club, MAPP, ReCreate Rec and others participated.

Every year, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission typically hosts a Park Appreciation Day at Karen Hornaday Park.  This year, however, those funds were spent on the trails symposium.  Although no final decisions were made on what the advisory commission is going to recommend to the City Council, facilitator Matt Steffy was pleased with the outcome. 

 “I feel like we accomplished in addressing a lot of trail connectivity and user connectivity issues,” said Steffy. “The sheer number of people involved can be powerful in getting solutions made.”