KES, nordic ski club work together on popular Diamond Ridge trail

Ski trail or fire station? 

Going into a meeting earlier this month with the Kachemak Emergency Services Area Board, Diamond Ridge residents and skiers who use the popular Sunset Loop Trail said they worried future construction of the Diamond Ridge Fire Station would cut off part of the trail where it crosses borough land at the fire hall site. 

One proposal had been that fire trucks be able to get to the back of the fire hall by driving onto Knott Circle, a road just east of the fire hall site used by local residents. The road would be widened and rebuilt to Kenai Peninsula Borough standards. That might mean two or more road crossings for the Sunset Loop trail, a challenge for skiers and grooming equipment.

This week, KES Fire Chief Bob Cicciarella said after he took a tour of the site with Kenai Peninsula Borough capital projects officials, ski club members and KESA board members, all parties agreed that it would be more economical to access the back of the fire hall through the lot. The cost of adding gravel would be cheaper than building a new road, Cicciarella said.

“We don’t need to do that at all,” he said of the Knott Circle access. “I’d rather be on my own lot.”

That was the suggestion made by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, at the Oct 10 meeting: Why not enter from Diamond Ridge Road so fire trucks stay on the lot and don’t have to use Knott Circle?

Cicciarella said new standards for newer trucks and firefighter drivers require garage doors at either end so trucks can be driven around from behind the building and out the front. 

Skiers and KESA board members at the meeting said they could work together to solve the problem.

“I’ve never felt like I’ve had any indication from KESA that’s negative to skiing or not letting us use the property,” Alan Parks, president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, said at the meeting. 

“We are not the enemy,” KESA Board President Jeff Middleton said. “A lot of you are good friends and neighbors. I ski. We can make this work.”

Dirt work this summer to clear a building pad for a new fire hall cut off a section of the Sunset Loop Trail where it crosses the southeast corner of the building area. This fall, ski club volunteers will have to cut and clear a new route. Parks said the club needs some reassurance that the trail won’t be impacted by future development.

During fire hall planning, the ski club asked to use part of the site for parking. KES plans to build the fire hall next spring and doesn’t want parking on the building pad so snow won’t get packed down and the ground can be insulated. Club members can use a grassy area of the building site for winter parking.

KESA board member and former borough assembly member Milli Martin said when she sponsored the borough action establishing the fire hall site, she had intended to include a section protecting ski trails, but was told by the land management department that could be worked out in a memorandum of agreement. Martin said that whatever plan is worked out needs to be submitted to the borough land management department.

“I want to say thank you to all the people for coming out,” she said to the skiers and residents. “It’s wonderful to have the public here.”