• Old Town People’s Garden project seeks to enhance trail with walk and flora
By Randi Somers
Plans are underway to enhance the beauty and safety of Old Town Homer over the next few months (and ongoing) through a project called Family Garden.
Below the Bypass and accessed mainly from Main Street, the district was once the heart of Homer. It is still a vibrant area that draws locals and visitors for beach walks, dining, entertainment and art, as well as basic needs like help with computers.
Spearheaded by Bunnell Street Art Center, the project’s focus will be a “long garden path” from Bunnell to Two Sisters’ Bakery, flanked by art work and edible beauty such as Siberian apple trees, gooseberry, rhubarb and rose bushes.
“It will be a resurgence of vibrancy that will be ongoing,” project director Brianna Allen said. “We hope to start the street painting before the snow flies.” She said the improvements will be ongoing for at least two years. She said the path and plantings will be on the side of Bunnell Street where property owners grant artistic easements.
One of the first projects is to paint blooming fireweed on the Driftwood Inn fence that faces Bunnell, two major works of art, a maritime compass rose and 12-foot sun, on the pavement at corners (visual speed bumps) and on the sides of two new residential buildings which are now near completion on the south side of the street. Eventually they plan to enhance even the trails down the hill to Bishops’ Beach and the park adjacent to the beach.
The People’s Garden project is the center of a “creative place-making” effort spearheaded by Bunnell Street Arts Center in collaboration with the Old Town Neighborhood Association to improve the health and vibrancy of this historic neighborhood, Allen said. Old Town was once the center of commerce and community life when homesteaders, fishermen and fox farmers shopped at the Inlet Trading Post which was the heart of town. That building is now home to Bunnell Street Arts Center, Old Town Bed and Breakfast and The Fringe as well as art studios.
After the 1964 earthquake, when some of the bluff area slid into Cook Inlet, the area was all but abandoned. Then in the late 1980s, a group of artists began renting and renovating the Old Inlet Trading Post, creating an innovative gallery-studio and sparking the rebirth of Old Town. Within a few years the building became an incubator, the center of an Old Town revival. Two Sisters Bakery, Old Inlet Bookshop, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust and several brewers got their start in the building and then built their own separate locations, up and down Bunnell Street. But despite all the new development, Old Town’s public spaces are still rough. Lacking sidewalks, adequate lighting and landscaping, inhabitants and visitors see plenty of room for improvement. Police are frequently called with complaints about activities in the area and at Bishop’s Beach park which planners think adequate lighting will help deter.
The Old Town People’s Garden project envisions involving the whole Homer community to make exterior Old Town as visually appealing, safe and vibrant as it is inside the establishments. They hope to make it inviting for dog-walkers, jugglers, street fairs, block parties and strolling musicians, elevating Old Town to a special Homer hot spot.
The proposal for an Old Town Edible Landscaping and Street Art project got a financial boost of $5,000 from the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District. Allen says the concept dates back to homesteading days when crops were grown in Old Town. The proposal states, “Since the early 1990s … (such early residents as) Dave Schroer and Homesteader Yule Kilcher have impressed upon Old Town occupants the value of growing food like fruit trees, berries, edible flowers and vegetables in the particular micro-climate of Old Town.” The Rasmuson foundation topped the award with a $7,500 grant to support the creative place-making efforts. The grants will help with the purchase of fruit trees and berry bushes to plant along the foot path which will parallel Bunnell Avenue. Bunnell Street Arts Center and the Old Town Neighborhood Association will match these grants through fundraising events and in-kind donations of labor, supplies, design and planning.
The proposal states that the need to upgrade is clear. “Old Town bustles with foot traffic for good reason. Between Two Sister’s Bakery and AJ’s Old Town Steak House the stroller can begin by sipping a cup of locally roasted coffee, taste an award-winning local mead, enjoy high-quality local art, catch live music while feasting on locally-caught halibut, all within a two-block stroll. For these reasons and more, locals and visitors choose to explore Old Town on foot. This project will create a corridor graced by trees bearing edible fruit, shrubs and flowers that will make for a safe and enjoyable walk through Old Town. Paintings on the street’s surface will become visual speed bumps for motorized traffic, as well as adding visual pleasure for strollers.
The street painting is expected to begin the first week in September. The city council has already approved the two murals to be painted on the street’s surface, a nautical compass rose at Main Street, Ohlson Lane and Bunnell and a zodiac sun at the intersection of Bunnell and Beluga Place. Property owners must file recreational easements which will facilitate the creation of the footpath complimented by fruit trees, berry bushes and flowers (some edible.)
Starting this winter, site-specific pathway planning and plant selections will be decided and additional signage, benches and lighting will be considered.
They plan a kick-off block party fundraiser next spring to introduce the planting efforts. Planting will begin as soon as weather permits, Allen said.
Comments are closed