An effort to build a multi-use trail between the Homer Spit and the popular East End Road trail in Homer has hit a snag. A larger-than-expected price tag for the project has prompted Homer Mayor Beth Wythe to suggest scrapping the idea altogether.
The Kachemak Drive Path Committee was first formed more than two years ago, with the task of developing a plan to build a non-motorized trail connecting the Spit Road trail with the East End Road trail along Kachemak Drive.
The committee collected information, held several public meetings and eventually commissioned an engineering survey to see what such a trail might cost. The answer came back at $374,000, a figure that caused sticker shock for Mayor Beth Wythe.
Wythe’s response is a resolution that would disband the Kachemak Drive Path Committee and discontinue all work on the trail project. The resolution states that due to limited funds, the Kachemak Drive trail is “not in the city’s best interest.”
Several people who have worked on the Kachemak Drive trail project made their opinions known at Monday’s meeting, voicing their support for its continuation.
Wythe said she does not oppose the concept of a trail along Kachemak Drive but given the high cost of the project and the fact that the city is working on several other high-priority projects right now, she thinks it’s time to put the path on the backburner.
Another hidden cost, said Wythe, is the amount of time city staff members spend facilitating meetings of various committees.
"They're using taxpayer dollars to pay overtime for many of the staff people," said Wythe. "And quite unfortunately, I keep hearing back that these people are being treated very poorly when they are providing these services."
Wythe said some of the city’s committees have become “perpetual” when the city simply cannot afford to sustain them.
At its meeting last Thursday, the Parks and Rec Advisory Commission got a look at Mayor Wythe’s resolution. That commission voted 5-to-1 to disband the Kachemak Drive Path Committee, with a request that the city council allow the Parks and Rec commission to address the issue in the future.
The city council voted to postpone a vote on Wythe’s resolution until September, to give proponents of the trail more time to come up with some alternative solutions.
Cheerleaders for the Kachemak Drive path still hope a solution can be found to get the trail built. They suggest using money from the city’s HART fund – that’s money earmarked for trails – and lowering the construction costs by using volunteer labor. The group has already formed a citizen’s association – outside the control of the City of Homer – to advance the project.