For Homer, Memorial Day weekend forms the first bookend to the summer season, marked on the other end by Labor Day. Between the day of honoring our fallen dead and the day designated in honor of industrious labors comes the busy tourist season. A time to pack in as many outdoor outings and vacations as employers will allow. A time when finally, thank God, winter is over for at least four and half months.
A trip to the Homer Spit in anticipation of summer shows a sense of industry and a spirit of optimism that seems suspiciously close to real happiness. Hammers and saws are fixing stairs and pathways. Flowers are getting put in. Big trucks are parked to offload supplies. A new coat of orange paint gets applied to a table made from a cable spool. Even the weather appeared content to cooperate for activity to get ready for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to Homer each summer.
For a town of under 6,000 (in the city limits), on any given weekend in Homer our population can double a few times over. On a day when the cruise ships come in, they can easily add 400-1,000 people to the day’s other tourists. Hard numbers are difficult to assess, but it is estimated that Homer receives 250,000 visitors per year. No wonder stores are packed to the gills with grocery shoppers most week days and weekends.
May 30 begins the cruise ship stops, with a total of nine dockings throughout the summer, until the last one Sept. 15. Merchants in town give mixed reviews to the merits of being a cruise ship stop. Some say it makes a difference in their bottom line prosperity, while others find the tourists consume more bother than they leave behind.
Yet, one fortuitous side benefit of having the cruise ships is the head tax that goes to the City of Homer. Last year, Homer received $6 million in the tax that can be put immediately to work this summer. The first project is paving the road where the cruise ships offload and designing in informational signage. Along with that is a pedestrian-bike trail that will include passenger bus stops and hook in with the Homer Spit Trail. Called the North Harbor Trail, it will connect to the deep water dock heading west to the launch ramp. Further out more bathrooms in the Deep Water Dock area also in the works. That’s good news because it means Homer will be able to offer more amenities not only for our visitors but for us to enjoy as well.
In-town traffic might require patience, but that’s not news. How to navigate Homer’s suddenly thronging streets forms shared tips amongst friends. Don’t take left hand turns, we’re told. Use your right blinker, then you won’t have to wait so long and waste gas. Also, it keeps traffic flowing.
Hey, at nearly $5 per gallon, let’s all take right turns this summer.
This will be a summer when we’ll especially need patience with road work. A project is in the works for the Anchor Point to Baycrest portion of fixes. More paving and widening work is planned for the segment from Kasilof south. And a large portion on the Seward Highway leading into Anchorage also will no doubt slow down traffic.
Even so, hooray for summer. Have a safe holiday weekend. Drive carefully.
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