By Randi Somers
Before proceeding with the construction of the proposed “People’s Garden” envisioned by the activists, called “Old Town Neighbors,” working on the renovation of Old Town, the city is being asked to do some work to improve safety.
The Old Town renewal team recently met with representatives of the Homer Planning and Public Works departments to discuss these needs. The goals for East Bunnell Avenue and Beluga Place include installing speed bumps on the roads to slow traffic, widening the pavement on both streets and adjusting the traffic lanes to provide for bike and pedestrian paths on the south and west sides of the streets, adding three crosswalks and necessary signage for bikes and walkers, and paving the parking area and painting parking slots at Bishop’s Beach.
Below the Bypass and accessed mainly via Main Street, the area known as Old Town was originally the center of commerce and community life for the early residents, homesteaders, fishermen and fox farmers who shopped at the Inlet Trading Post at the corner of Main and Bunnell which was the heart of town. After the destruction of the 1964 earthquake when some of the bluff area slid into Cook Inlet, the area was virtually abandoned. Then in the late 1980s a group of artists began renting and renovating the old Trading Post, creating a gallery and studio which sparked the rebirth of the area.
“It will be an ongoing resurgence of vibrancy,” project director Brianna Allen said. The path, “People’s Garden,” will be along Bunnell Street, east to where Two Sister’s Bakery marks the end of that street. The People’s Garden is expected to be flanked by works of art and beautiful plantings, many of which produce edible goodies, to include apple trees, rhubarb, gooseberry and rose bushes.
The renewers have already painted blossoming fireweed on the Driftwood Inn fence that faces the Bunnell Street Art Center.
Allen said the compass rose and sun painted on the street corners to serve as visual “speed bumps” last year have since been worn away by traffic. “We aim to cultivate and express outwardly and openly in our neighborhood the beauty and charisma of Old Town,” Allen said. “As an historic district and the gateway to one of Alaska’s best beaches and parks, Old Town has much to offer – great art, dining and recreational opportunities. But the walking experience, traffic culture and lack of landscaping leave a lot to be desired. Bunnell Street Arts Center is working with neighbors and funders to shape the experience through planning, participatory art activities and outdoor installations. So much could happen to bring out our beauty, our vision as a community. To pave the way, neighborhood meetings and walkability in Old Town is our major priority.”
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