Snug Harbor Road in Cooper Landing, an access point for Chugach National Forest trails, senior housing, a Girl Scout camp and a church, is undergoing construction this summer to make the roadway a safer route to walk and bike. Federal Highways expects to complete the project in October.
The groundwork for this major safety project began much earlier. A coalition of Cooper Landing community groups, including the Walkable Community Project, the Community Club, and the Senior Citizens Corporation spearheaded the effort to secure federal highway funding for a Snug Harbor bike path and paving project in 2009. The Cooper Landing Community Club proposed 1.1 miles of separated bike trail along the paved and gravel road. Over 70 letters of support were gathered over the following year, representing 17 formal organizations. The project was awarded $2.83 million from the Forest Highway Program in 2010. These funds were available only to federally designated Forest Highways.
The final project entails construction of a 0.8-mile separated bike path from the Sterling Highway to the Cooper Landing Post Office. The paved portion of Snug Harbor Road will be extended from mile 1.1 to mile 1.8 at Campus Drive, access to the Senior Having housing development. The road will be upgraded to accommodate paved 4-foot shoulders on both sides. This will bring Snug Harbor Road up to the 2008 Federal Highway Administration guidance standard for walkable shoulders on rural highways.
“Paving will be an improvement,” asserts Ron Sloan, President of the Cooper Landing Senior Citizens Corporation. Sloan cites better access for residents of Senior Haven to safer outdoor exercise and improved road access for emergency vehicles on a newly paved road.
A Cooper Landing public meeting in April of 2013 garnered 200 comments to the Federal Highway Administration. Adjustments were made to save costs and limit the amount of work necessary on private driveways. The result will be a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly route along Snug Harbor Road. A 2005 Florida Department of Transportation study found that installing or widening paved shoulders reduced vehicle-pedestrian crashes by 70%.
“The momentum (for the bike and shoulder project) comes from the obvious need for a safe place to walk within Cooper Landing,” said Sandra Holsten, a Walkable Community Project member. “Besides our residents… there are 10,000 tourists arriving by bus at Princess Lodge each summer and countless summer workers without cars.” The effort to make Cooper Landing walkable, testified Holsten, was led by year-round residents. “I believe that sense of community is why most of us live in Cooper Landing year round.”
Mona Painter, secretary of the Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area (KMTA), has worked with fellow community members on walkable routes in Cooper Landing for decades. The mission of KMTA includes strengthening community identity and restoring and preserving historic trails and byways.
KMTA offers grant support for volunteer community efforts. KMTA did not play a direct role in the Snug Harbor project, but seeks to partner on similar efforts. For more information about the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area visit www.kmtacorridor.org.