The following is an article in the Pay It Forward column published in the Homer News. This column is sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ www.homerfoundation.org and like us on Facebook.
As we have all witnessed these past few years, our little hamlet by the sea is experiencing some growing pains. What we once knew as moose calving habitat has become subdivisions. Where we once strolled to visit a neighbor is now someone’s back yard. Where we once watched in wonder the annual raising of a sand hill crane colt, there is now a parking lot. Our little town is growing like we never imagined it would in our lifetimes.
We can dwell on the downsides some other time. Our focus here is on the lessons we’ve learned from these rapid changes and acknowledgement of those who are working to preserve and improve upon the pedestrian and wildlife corridors that contribute so much to our quality of life.
Studies consistently indicate that communities connected by trails experience increased levels of physical activity, reduced levels of disease and mortality risks, lower health care costs, increase in volunteerism, fund raising, sense of pride and belonging and increased road safety. Additionally, there is a reduction in noise and air pollution, road deterioration and congestion. These studies show that as trail systems grow their use becomes more frequent contributing to an increase in the number of nearby businesses established or expanded. Overall cost to benefit ratios have been estimated to be as high as $3.55 annually, i.e. for every $1.00 spent on trails $3.55 of benefits are generated each year.
We would like to acknowledge our own City of Homer and their efforts to make downtown a more pedestrian friendly place to travel. For example, the sidewalk addition to Main Street and the pedestrian lane added to the south side of the Eric Lane extension. Both projects provide residents of the surrounding neighborhoods safe non-motorized links to Hornaday Park, the hospital and West Homer Elementary. Also, kudos to Homer Draw Down volunteers for their work improving the many trails around town.
Great strides are being made outside of the city limits as well. Any Nordic skiers out there can attest to our quality ski trails. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine a winter without them. We’ve come a long way over the past 40 years. Today, Kachemak Nordic Ski Club maintains over 70 kilometers of trail from Rogers Loop over Diamond and Crossman Ridge and on to Lookout Mountain. For east enders the McNeil trails are manicured regularly and provide some of the best late season Nordic skiing in the State.
Summer hiking and biking is fabulous as well. The State Park Diamond Creek single track and trail to the beach are huge attractions for both visitors and locals. Shout out to Homer Cycling Club for their hard work in making this what might be the birthplace of Homer single track.
The Homestead Trail, a longtime locals favorite, winds through berry bogs and hills of wildflowers from Rogers Loop to the reservoir. Thanks to Homer Trails Alliance, KNSC, Boy Scout Troop 555, and very generous private land owners working together, the Homestead Trail continues to be expanded and improved upon. Much thanks to the 100 Women Who Care for their financial support.
In closing, we must remember that trails don’t just happen, though they do happen to make our community a better place to live. We encourage you to make your contributions, be it monetary or volunteer labor and to get out and enjoy the trails.
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