The city of Kenai will likely have some improvements to greet visiting dipnetters next summer. At a special meeting Monday night, several ideas were presented that will use state grant dollars to fund upgrades both on the beach and closer to town.
Back in 2013, when the state was still making grants available to municipalities, the city of Kenai received nearly $2 million that paid for the new access road to the south beach of the Kenai River. Some $700,000 is left from that grant and other projects remain on the list for the city administration.
The Harbor Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission met to discuss some of the options to send to the council for further review. City Manager Paul Ostrander says they went to all departments to look for ideas, eventually having 12 proposals, and narrowing that down to just a few, based on several factors like safety and how they would fit into the budget.
“The big one was would it improve the quality of life for residents in the city. The last one is how quickly the project can be completed. So we created that scoring rubric because we knew that it was important to justify why we chose the projects that we did. The process we went through, I think, made it as quantitative and as objective as possible, so that the projects that did rise to the top really made sense.”
Time is also a big factor, as the grant does have an expiration date.
“The grant expires in June of 2020, but we hope to get that extended another year to allow for completion of these projects and I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll be able to get that extension.”
One of the projects that made the cut would add permanent, vaulted restrooms at the North Beach. The estimated cost of putting in four restrooms, each with two stalls, is about $180,000. But that number still represents some savings, says Parks and Rec Director Bob Frates.
“Between the restrooms and the solid waste disposal, i.e. the trash and the dumpsters, total cost is (approximately $70,000). Those restrooms and port-a-potties are extremely expensive. What the vaulted restrooms do for us is a little bit of a cost savings but also provide some infrastructure down there for more than just the three weeks.”
Looking at use beyond the normal dipnetting season was a theme in some of the projects, like adding a campground. It’s been nearly a decade since the city operated a dedicated campground, which went away when Wal-Mart opened in 2010. In fact, Kenai is the only city on the peninsula without its own public campground. A two-acre lot the city owns on South Spruce Street could serve as a permanent campsite, and one with a view. Frates compares it to the public spots available in downtown Seward, right on Resurrection Bay.
“One of the questions that we receive probably the most throughout the summer months is ‘where’s your campground?’ And people are amazed when we tell them we don’t have a campground. And there’s not really, anywhere in the city presently, a place for motorhomes or tent camping.”
Another project that made the final list for consideration is one that would add permanent restrooms at the little league fields where portable units are now placed during dipnet season. Estimated cost for that is $125,000 The last project would replace a fee shack on the south beach for about $35,000. Ostrander says they’re still penciling out possible revenue figures for the campground, but the estimated cost for the first phase of construction is $400,000. Expanding hook-up options for RV’s would come later.
“I think the vault restrooms and the little league permanent restrooms are obvious choices folks can see the benefit of. The spruce campground, there will likely be some discussion as far as whether that’s the appropriate location. We looked at this very closely and based on our analysis we think it’s an excellent location, and actually will be revenue positive to the city. And couple that with the fact we don’t have an RV park or campground currently in the city and I think there’s strong justification for that project as well.”
The plan calls for 30 spaces for RVs that would eventually have power and water hook-ups, along with space for tent camping. A pavilion would also be available for use year round. The lot has an assessed value of about $47,000. The council is expected to take up the recommendations next month.