Three Alaska youths were honored for their contribution to the environment at an Earth Day 2001 event in Washington DC. Below is a description of their Year 2000 award nomination.
President's Environmental Youth Award Winners: Michael Penland, Eric Soderquist, Paul Kim
SOLDOTNA CREEK PARK PROJECT
315 South Kobuk Suite A
Soldotna, Alaska 99669
As a community service project for their government class and for the annual Caring for the Kenai contest, Michael Penland, Eric Soderquist, and Paul Kim of Soldotna designed and installed a fish habitat restoration and protection project at Soldotna Creek Park. For many years the Kenai River has been the subject of intensive study and concern for the damaging effects of human impacts. The purpose of the students’ project was an effort to decrease the impact of public use upon the surrounding habitat, while improving the accessibility and functionality of the facility. The students’s work assisted in reducing angler trampling damage at the site, resolved design problems with previous work done at the site, and restored healthy vegetation to previously damaged riparian areas of the mouth of the Soldotna Creek and the banks of the Kenai River. The project improved accessibility by adding pullout areas along the existing elevated walkway with benches and areas for wheelchairs for people to sit and watch the river activity.
The three students coordinated their project with staff from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Division of Parks, local businesses and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. The students did all the planning, fund raising, obtaining permit applications, and the manual labor for the project. They discovered the time-consuming complexities of codes, permitting and planning. In the fall they prepared the site by clearing debris. The three filmed their progress, using the video in presentations to agencies and potential donors. During the winter, they raised funds around the community and collected building materials donated or discounted by area companies. They also cut out and assembled parts in the Soldotna city shop while the waterfront was covered with ice. In the summer, the three students installed a stairway to help prevent bank destruction caused by foot traffic and a cantilevered fishing platform to let anglers and sightseers get close to the waterway without harming its fragile habitat. They also built four alcoves and benches along the river, planted a live fence consisting of alder and willow along the top portion of the Soldotna access point to discourage trespassing onto private property and used earthwork willows and coconut mats to promote revegetation by the creek.
Funding was an issue, but in the end they collected over $15,000 for the project. Michael, Eric, and Paul thought the work would be a two-week project, but it turned out that they spent more than a thousand hours building the walkways and fishing platforms and restoring the bank habitat. Michael said the project taught them some valuable lessons about how things happen in the real world, but found it was worthwhile to return something to the community.