Public trails should be protected in Dorothy Drive area

Thanks to the Homer News for reporting on the proposal to vacate a portion of public right of way in the Gruening Vista subdivision off Skyline Drive. I was first alerted to this issue via a memo from Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce ordering a section of Dorothy Drive to be closed for public safety reasons. While the road closure issue is being sorted out, I have been approached by many borough residents who are very concerned about losing public access to the Bear Canyon area where there are a number of existing hiking trails and easements on adjacent properties.

The Bear Canyon area of our community has a long history of pedestrian and equestrian trail use. Former Borough Assembly member Milli Martin has written a fascinating history of the trails in this locale which is available at the Homer Public Library in the “Top Drawer” collection. My wife and I have enjoyed hiking the trails below Dorothy Drive for many years and I know many others who frequently hike there. The developers of Canyon Trails Subdivision have dedicated a number of trail easements to the City of Homer and some adjacent landowners have welcomed hikers to use the trails crisscrossing the hillside above Bear Creek Drive.

With recent changes in land ownership of some properties near the top of the slope, “No Trespassing” signs have sprouted in and along some of the trails. This is absolutely the prerogative of the landowners and I have no quarrel with Zac Brown who has stopped people from crossing his property. However there is a dedicated public easement along his property line which provides public access from Dorothy Drive downhill to other trails. Unfortunately, the easement follows a section line resulting in a very steep hike up or down.

This is where I see an opportunity. While Mr. Brown and his neighbors pursue the process of vacating a portion of Dorothy Drive, I would strongly encourage them to work with the borough Planing Department and the public to create alternate trails which would not only follow more reasonable and logical terrain than a section line, but could also route hikers away from private homes in the area. This could certainly be a win/win situation for both homeowners desiring privacy and the public desiring to retain access to areas long used by hikers and equestrians.

Perhaps Mr. Brown could also work with one of our local organizations such as the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust to protect the scenic splendor, historic values and high value wildlife habitat found on the beautiful slopes between East End Road and Skyline Drive. We welcome Zac to our community and I invite him to join us in looking for equitable solutions.

During my service as an assembly member, I’ve come to appreciate how the best results come about when we work together. I sure do see an opportunity for working together on this issue.

Willy Dunne represents District 9 on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not represent the Borough or the Assembly.