Woodard Creek connects us

Anyone who’s experienced the quiet, shimmering magic of a rippling creek knows what piece of mind it can bring.  We forget about the turmoil of life and clear our minds to think and reflect. The subtle music of gurgling water is a soothing medicine; if you’ve never experienced it, you are missing a treasure. If you have, nature has soaked you in one of its best tonics. 

Woodard Creek was once this healing elixir.  It was a creek that ran year round from the bluffs above Homer, through town and into Kachemak Bay. It supplied water and peace of mind for early homesteaders.  Sadly, much of this magical gem has been lost. It has been filled and encroached upon, trashed, channelized and hidden in pipes, so few people know it exists. The majority of lucky folks living on Woodard Creek protect it with a passion, as they understand the value of Homer’s hidden treasure.

Highlighting Woodard Creek as a community asset is a shared cause. The Woodard Creek watershed connects our community from the area above South Peninsula Hospital, to Karen Hornaday Park, through private property and public spaces along Bartlett Street and Pioneer Avenue, including the Pratt Museum and the Homer Council on the Arts. Woodard Creek empties into Kachemak Bay west of Bishop’s Beach, exactly where the Cenotaph was built by Bunnell Street Art Center’s Artist in Residence in May 2014. 

To highlight the creek and raise community awareness about its value, we will undertake a “Street Painting Project” on Aug. 16. We received approval from DOT to coordinate a painted visual depiction of the creek on the pavement of Pioneer Avenue and the Sterling Highway. We will host a guided kids painting activity on the Pratt Museum pavement over Woodard Creek on Aug. 16 as well. These visual depictions will identify the culverted creek’s location under our roadways. We hope to do the same on the streets north of Pioneer (Noview, Soundview, Rangeview, etc.) with city approval.   

One goal of this project is to strengthen the community through artistic engagement that interfaces with other local efforts, strengthening our environmental resources for economic, cultural and physical health. Woodard Creek Coalition (WCC) is an alliance of property owners and groups dedicated to restoring the Woodard Creek as a vibrant community asset. Working collaboratively with the city of Homer, we envision a wide, brightly painted “creek” that visually pops out on the pavement. We envision signage like “Woodard Creek Flows Here” placed strategically to educate the public about the watercourse and its location. And we’ll work with the city of Homer in stages so that the streets can remain open and traffic flowing.

We can’t do this fun and important work alone. We need volunteers to paint the “creek” and help with traffic control. If you’d like to be involved, please contact us. 

In the very place where water pressure inside the culvert “containing” Woodard Creek at Pioneer Avenue forced a manhole cover 9 feet into the air a couple years ago, the creek could be the centerpiece of a beautiful gateway to Pioneer Avenue. Our goal is not to create a lasting painting of the creek on the pavement, but to daylight the creek and inspire design and planning that highlight the creek. Imagine a bridge culvert at Pioneer with park and green space around it. This could be an amazing re-vision of Pioneer Avenue.

Flowing from initial conversations about daylighting the creek on their properties, the Pratt Museum and Homer Council on the Arts (HCOA) recently announced that the two organizations are  discussing the possibilities of collaborating to make use of the existing museum building as a performance, art and activity space. The future Woodard Creek Arts and Culture Complex, to be located on the Pratt Museum’s 9.8-acre property, is envisioned to include the 

new Pratt Museum building, the newly defined performing arts and community building, and the existing historic cabin and shop. This newly defined arts complex would also serve the region by providing a location for meetings, events and workshops. 

Last fall, the Pratt Museum re-examined the idea of repurposing its existing building, based on the positive collaborative work that has been occurring throughout the community within the last two years. In response to ongoing dialogue among nonprofit organizations on the lower Kenai Peninsula and the results of the Parks, Art and Recreation Needs Assessment survey released earlier this year, the two organizations saw this as a unique opportunity to collaborate to meet community needs. Both organizations are excited to move forward with planning and collaborative work to implement this vision. 

The Phase 1 Site Plan may be viewed on the Pratt’s website, www.prattmuseum.org. Phase 2 is the future project to open up and daylight the portion of Woodard Creek that currently flows underneath the museum’s parking lot behind the existing building.

As private property owners, non-profits, and friends of Woodard Creek work on creek projects, we invite other community members to join. Help develop this unique gem and grasp this opportunity to have a free flowing creek that will beautify and provide recreational and educational opportunities for the city of Homer.

Members of the Woodard Creek Coalition:

• Asia Freeman, executive director 

of Bunnell Street Arts Center

• Deb Lowney, Homer Parks and Rec commissioner and a board member of Bunnell Street Arts Center

• Robert Archibald, Homer Parks and Rec commissioner

• Bob Shavelson, director Cook Inletkeeper

• Diane Converse, Pratt Museum director/CEO
and co-chair Woodard Creek Coalition

• Peggy Paver, Homer Council on the Arts
executive director