By Christina Whiting
Dave Brann has dreamed of creating a local water trail that would promote recreation and stewardship of Kachemak Bay. For the past three years, he has worked alongside individuals, businesses, nonprofits and state agencies to create such a trail and on June 6, the Kachemak Bay Water Trail will be officially unveiled.
“We hope kayakers, sailors and people in skiffs will learn more about good stewardship practices and respect the Bay and surrounding lands,” Brann said.
The 125-mile trail is open to all boats, including kayaks, sailboats, rowboats and skiffs. It encompasses the waterways between the Homer Spit and Seldovia, including the north side of Kachemak Bay, around the head of the Bay to Bear Cove, into Halibut Cove, Halibut Cove Lagoon, China Poot, Tutka Bay, Sadie Cove and Jakalof, around the MacDonald Spit and south to Seldovia.
Some public access areas in Kachemak Bay State Park are currently marked and the remainder of public and private/commercial water trail sites will be identified this summer and next with 4×4 post markers bearing water trail plaques.
A newly created trail map identifies 42 existing State Park recreation areas that are open to the public. These include primitive and developed campsites, wildlife-viewing-only areas like Gull Island and 60-Foot Rock, and private property like the Herring Islands, which can be explored by boat, but are not accessible on foot.
Eventually, the map will include day-use only sites, primitive camping sites, developed camp sites that will have fire rings, latrines and perhaps tent platforms, and private commercial sites that include cabins or lodges. Large maps will be placed at the Seldovia and Homer trailheads, along with safety panels.
Maps will be available through water taxi operator offices on the Homer Spit and at the Homer and Seldovia chambers of commerce.
Last summer, nine volunteers from the Water Trail Steering Committee and The Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park spent two days working to rehabilitate the Chugachik Island site. This summer and next, volunteers will again clear land, install latrines, create fire rings and build tent platforms. Eventually, they will create information kiosks and install picnic tables where needed.
The water trails website was launched last fall and is interactive with maps, historical information of the areas, links to safety information and has an area for people to add their own photos and comments about their experiences on the water trail. Eventually, the website will also include suggested itineraries to help in trip planning.
For those not familiar with Kachemak Bay, but want to explore the water trail, guided trips are available with local kayak tour companies and water taxi operators.
Hal Sheppard with the Center for Water Advocacy is organizing a series of trips to compile a list of suggested itineraries.
“Some people’s image of a trail is a line that you follow across the ground and up and over a mountain,” Brann said. “With a water trail, there is no such line; instead, people can make their own route using endless combinations.”
When the suggested itineraries are completed, they will be posted on the water trails website and Facebook page.
While encouraging recreational opportunities is a primary goal of the water trail, Brann hopes that by accessing the trail, individuals will be inspired to take care of it, from leaving a no-trace approach of hauling out what is hauled in, to learning to view wildlife without negatively impacting it and respecting private land.
For Brann, the water trail has been a field of dreams; “if you build it, they will come.” He is working with the Homer Yacht Club and Alaska State Park to re-establish and establish safe mooring buoys to improve access for those using sailboats or motorized boats.
They encourage everyone to educate themselves on safe water practices before heading off down the trail. Some safety information is provided on the water trails website.
Kachemak Bay Water Trails is managed by a steering committee and the nonprofit group Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park.
Looking to the future, the steering committee is developing a five-year plan that includes providing classes on water safety and stewardship, offering presentations on the natural history of Kachemak Bay and seeking out trail suggestions for site improvements.
Already designated as part of President Obama’s Great Outdoors Initiative, Brann and his team is looking forward to the water trail becoming nationally recognized as part of the National Water Trails System.
“KBWT is unique for so many reasons,” Brann said. “The scenery is spectacular, the wildlife is abundant, the access is easy, the history of the area is incredible and Homer’s a great jumping-off point to paddle from.”
On June 6, the Kachemak Bay Water Trail will be officially unveiled during ribbon-cutting ceremonies and dedications in Homer and Seldovia that are free and open to the public. Seldovia residents will celebrate with a community-hosted taco feed at the multi-purpose room, from noon and 2 p.m.
In Homer, refreshments, music and paddling activities await locals and visitors at the newly designated launch site/trailhead behind Pier One Theatre on the Homer Spit, from 5 to 8 p.m.
State and federal officials will be on hand for the ceremonies, where plaques, trailhead markers and safety panels will be unveiled, along with the new water trail map.
“I hope the Kachemak Bay Water Trail attracts visitors to Homer who will support local businesses and see what a great place we live in,” Brann said.
More information on the water trail is available on the Facebook page or on the website, kachemakbaywatertrail.org. Contact Dave Brann at 299-3646 or email@example.com.
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