The Seafarers Memorial parking lot is mostly empty on Oct. 25, 2019, on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. The city has applied for a conditional use permit to fill in and extend the parking lot to the left in this photo, or toward the beach. The angled parking spaces by the Homer Spit Road also would be removed except in front of the Cannery Row Boardwalk.(Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The Seafarers Memorial parking lot is mostly empty on Oct. 25, 2019, on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. The city has applied for a conditional use permit to fill in and extend the parking lot to the left in this photo, or toward the beach. The angled parking spaces by the Homer Spit Road also would be removed except in front of the Cannery Row Boardwalk.(Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Point of View: Think twice before destroying one of the last remaining natural beaches at the end of the spit

No one will argue that parking on the Spit has been a constant problem. Over the years, the city has come up with a variety of solutions to alleviate this problem, some reasonable, and some bordering on the ridiculous. How about filling in part of Mud Bay and converting into a camping area, or perhaps a parking lot?

The City of Homer has recently come up with yet another idea: fill in and pave one of the last remaining natural beaches at the end of the Spit, all for the sake of more parking. The city is proposing to expand the parking lot at the Seafarer’s Memorial in two phases: Phase 1 – Improve the existing lot and expand it towards the water. Phase 2 – Expand, fill, and pave the existing lot northward to the Boardwalk Fish and Chips Restaurant.

Let’s all take a deep breath, pause, and reconsider what we are doing. Lack of sufficient parking on the Spit is a symptom of a much bigger issue. The Spit has a finite amount of space, and adding yet another parking lot is not the solution. Has an overall Parking Master Plan for the Spit been developed? Has the City performed an Impact Analysis of lost precious open space, on the effects of sea level rise, on the instability of the proposed dredge fill material? We ought to work with what we have, and protect what little natural areas we have left.

Kachemak Bay Birders is particularly opposed to Phase 2 of the proposed parking lot expansion plan. Does it make sense to pave over a grassy beach that is important habitat to certain species of songbirds and contributes to the overall enjoyment of the locals and visitors? Loss of habitat is the number one reason that birds are in a serious decline. In addition, paving will effectively eliminate all remaining natural areas at the end of the Spit and will permanently alter the natural berm above the tidal zone, making the area more vulnerable to erosion. The proposal fails to address the future of sea level rise and storm surge tidal damage that will occur. Does the city want to commit to costly and frequent maintenance due to continuous erosion?

We urge the City of Homer to think about other options for expanded parking without the destruction of beach habitat. Consider a small increase in the existing parking lot (but with no further expansion toward the water) at the Seafarer’s Memorial to make better use of space. A more squared-off lot would be more suitable for designated parking spaces.

On the Spit, gravel is a superior alternative to paving, as it allows better percolation of water and less runoff of vehicle oil and other toxins, thus reducing erosion and preventing toxins from entering the sea. Consider using areas of the Spit that are already graded, have gravel, and are less likely to contribute to beach erosion.

For more efficient use of the space, limit parking for RVs. Also consider improving organization of existing, haphazard parking. Better signage and marking could reduce the parking problem significantly, along with adding a hierarchy of parking fees.

Urge the City to reconsider their expansion plans for parking so that what little natural habitat left on the Spit remains protected, use of existing space is maximized, erosion is minimized, and visual enjoyment for local residents and visitors is maintained.

Carol Harding has been a resident of Homer for 25 years, and is current Chair of Kachemak Bay Birders, an informal organization of Homer area individuals who are interested in birds, birding, and the conservation of birds.

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