Move to ban motor vehicles from west Bishop's Beach fails at city council meeting
At Monday night’s Homer City Council meeting, an ordinance to totally ban vehicular access to Bishop’s Beach went nowhere. Council member Joey Evensen had sought to get vehicles banned from the west portion of the beach by promoting natural gas as a heating fuel and prohibiting vehicle-powered coal-gathering as a way to achieve that goal.
“The policy aim here is to preserve something so that everybody can enjoy it, so that we don't say well, just because we want to go out and ride four wheelers on it it's going to be trashed for all future generations,” Evensen said. “And it will never experience the richness biodiversity that it had not very long ago.”
Evensen said being a local, he’s seen many changes over his lifetime. But his proposal did not gain any support from fellow council members.
“And maybe the council members didn't grow up in Homer, Lord and Aderhold, maybe you never saw what it was like in the 80s and 90s, but our beach used to be very, very rich, like the richest intertidal ecosystem you would find across the bay these days, like the very richest one, Bishop beach was like that,” Evensen said. “There were anemones and every little tide pool that was out there. I mean every little puddle of water on the beach, just past the first berm. Things like anemones. And then there were, not just starfish, but these big sea stars. You know, these giant, giant things like the size of a pizza.”
He said the beach has suffered in the years since he was a child.
“Our bay is still rich, but the beach is virtually dead. It has beared the brunt of this policy. So I don't think this is just about social policy and our freedoms,” Evensen said. “I think we have watched in a very short period of years, the beach be virtually destroyed, and I'm not sure if it can be repaired.”
Another council member who grew up here, Heath Smith, said there’s an established process for making changes as significant as closing beach access.
“As council member Aderhold said, and Lord and me, there was a huge buildup to the beach policy in how those changes ever got instituted and that went through a process and it wasn't just, you know, an ordinance that came forward and we just went through two readings. There was a ton of things that happened, and there was a ton of very passionate testimony that came as a result of all those different meetings through the task force to PARC-AC, coming to the city council.”
Smith suggested sending the idea to the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission, or PARC-AC for review.
“It's a perfect time to introduce to them and say, ‘look, these are some things that we'd like you to consider in re-evaluating the beach policy.’ And it can build from there. And it's going to take that kind of momentum, I think, to ever pass at this table,” Smith said. “So I don't think that you have to look at this as a failure or a fizzle. It's just, you know, a path forward that's going to help build consensus among your council members and, and maybe lead to success.”
In the end, the council went ahead and voted down the ordinance, 6-to-0. Expect to see it, or something similar before the PARC-AC in the future.