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Annual KMTA Grant Cycle is Open!

The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area is excited to announce that our annual grant cycle is now open. We award grants for projects that steward the natural, cultural, and historical resources of Alaska’s only National Heritage Area. We’re seeking to support projects that will help preserve, promote and facilitate public enjoyment of these resources.  

 We offer one-year and multi-year grants up to $24,000 through two primary grant areas: Community Grants and Publication and Arts Grants. Applications are due at midnight on March 24th, 2023. Check out our grants programto see if you’re eligible to apply! 

Contact Jessa West at jessawest@kmtacorridor.org with any questions! 

 

Winter Break Programs Get Kids Outside Across the KMTA!

What’s better than playing outside? Playing outside with friends! This year, KMTA held a series of day programs for K-12 kids throughout the Heritage Area over winter break that included cookie decorating, kicksledding, and a variety of snow-centric activities. We provided four programs held in Girdwood, Hope, Moose Pass and Seward to local KMTA kids free of charge. Participating youth spent the days enjoying their community spaces and one another, taking full advantage of their break from school to get some fresh air and have some fun! 

Each program had a generally similar schedule of events but were unique to the individual kids’ interests and adapted to suit the conditions of the day. In Girdwood, a few inches of fresh snow, a warm up from the frigid temperature earlier in the week, and a shared love of Minecraft had us using snow saws to cut cubes for block snowmen. They were promptly and gleefully smashed upon completion by their builders. In Hope, an indefatigable crew of diggers and several avid artists created a network of snow tunnels, slides, and caves that were then decorated with a colorful array of snow art. Held at the Hope School, these structures expanded the already impressive array of existing kid-designed snow architecture around the school grounds, which includes a cave with 5 entrances and a multi-room “snow hotel.”  


 I likely do not need to remind you about the weather we were treated to following Christmas. In case you forgot or were fortunate enough to be out of town – a powerful storm system brought rain and wind that covered much of the KMTA region, communities and transportation corridors in a treacherous sheet of ice. KMTA kids were undaunted by this slippery turn of events however and made the best of it. 

 In Moose Pass, the warm up made for perfect snowball-making conditions and we were treated to a unique opportunity: could the chance to shape bowling pins and balls out of the snow that slid with ease and accuracy on the ice-covered “lane!” Several of the boys engaged in an hours-long snowball standoff that likely would have continued long into the night had we left them to their own devices. On our final day in Seward, the kids set out from the library and took advantage of a break in the rain to explore along Resurrection Bay and play in the snow at the park-turned-ice rink, grabbing one another for support as they slid around and took their friends down with them in fits of smiles and laughter.  


While the kids put their personal spins on each day, two activities were constant across all four program days: cookie decorating and kick sledding. Sugar cookies, homemade by yours truly, featured shapes familiar to those who live and play in the KMTA: wildlife, float planes, spruce trees, stars, and especially important this time of the yearsweaters! To go along with their decorated cookies, kids drew murals that were completed with the addition of their cookie masterpieces. Many of these scenes creatively represented life in the Heritage Area from the perspective of some of its youngest residents. 

The other central activity – kick sledding – was familiar to some participants, new to many, and loved by all! The kick sleds are a recent addition to the Whittier Community School’s fleet of outdoor recreation equipment. Acquired as part of a three-year programmatic grant from KMTA, a few of them were generously shared with us to use during our winter break programs. A huge thank you to the Whittier Community School and Victor Shen for sharing these endless sources of fun. They were the highlight of the program for many participants. Conditions varied greatly between program days but the kick sleds made for a perfect outdoor activity in both the firm snow and ice. Easy to use for kids of all sizes, program participants had a blast taking turns driving and riding as they sledded up and down their community streets. They made for a perfect complement to cookie decorating. The sugar high was immediately put to good use with some kick sled relays and speed races! 

Our winter break programs were offered out of each community’s local hall or community room. We are so grateful for the presence of these spaces throughout the Heritage Area. Without them these programs would not be possible! A special thanks to Girdwood Parks & Recreation, Seward Community Library & Museum, Moose Pass Sportsman’s Club, and Hope School for working with us to provide these opportunities to local kids. 

 All said, we’re beyond excited by the success of this program series and want to give a big THANK YOU to all who participated and supported the program through in-kind and financial donations. We look forward to continuing to work in and with KMTA communities to best serve local families and connect kids to this one-of-a-kind place they call home. If you’d like to help us further our mission of getting kids outside in the KMTA, check out our Ways to Support page here or our direct donation link here.  

 

National Heritage Area Act Becomes Law

Dear Friends,

I am elated to be able to bring you the best news of 2023: yesterday, January 5th 2023, President Biden signed the National Heritage Area Act (S. 1942) into law. KMTA is hereby reauthorized for another 15 years. This legislation did a lot more than just reauthorize the existence of KMTA. It created standard criteria for the funding management and designation of NHAs across the country, and even authorized 7 new NHAs. 

It feels impossible describe what all went into making this happen, but it is an underdog story for the ages. Two weeks before Christmas we thought we’d exhausted every avenue to get S. 1942 passed. It failed to make it into the Omnibus and as an amendment to the National Defense Act. Then in the worst turn of events, the assumedly strong Public Lands Package fell apart, and with it our inclusion in what was our only plausible remaining vehicle for passage at the end of the 117th Congress. If you’d have been on the ANHA board call that week, you would have felt a horribly dismal energy and palpable sense of defeat radiate through the computer screen. It was a gut punch of the greatest magnitude. In that moment, we were confronted with the reality that to get S. 1942 across the finish line, we’d have to accomplish the impossible: have it pass as a standalone bill. This would require it passing out of the Senate with unanimous support, and then out of the House by a 2/3rds majority. So, we pulled up our bootstraps and threw EVERYTHING we had left at the fire: countless hours of additional emailing and calling congressional reps and their staffers, flooding the inboxes of those reps, their teams, and Senate and House leadership with hundreds of emails, and harnessing the support of partners and community members (like you!) to do the same. Needless to say we made some noise. And against all odds, we watched the following happen just days before Christmas:

  1. The Senate passed S. 1942 without opposition from a single member

  2. The House Rules Committee then convened and ruled that S. 1942 would only require a simple majority (not 2/3rds) to pass the House

  3. And on December 22nd in a final momentous act, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation by a bi-partisan vote of 326-95 (surpassing the simple majority vote we needed). 

The National Heritage Area Act was one of the last bills passed in the 117th Congress. 

In the end, though we were forced onto the most difficult path possible, having S. 1942 voted on as a standalone bill rather than as an amendment to another was a tremendous service to NHAs. Every member of Congress now knows what a National Heritage Area is. Every vote we received was for us alone. This landmark legislation is proof that America’s National Heritage Areas are unequivocally valued. It is a testament to the importance of the work we do.

What we achieved together is truly historic. It is a direct reflection of our determination, resilience, and collective strength. Through this years’ long advocacy effort, we’ve earned real respect from Congress, many of whom conveyed we pretty much broke their intake systems with the volume of outreach requesting support for S. 1942. Our voice —YOUR voice—rocked the ship. On behalf of KMTA, I want to extend my profound gratitude for your tireless work to help us save our National Heritage Areas. 

We are so looking forward to serving our KMTA communities and users for an additional 15 years (at least). 😉

My deepest thanks,
Rachel

Fresh Air Friday – Winter Break Edition

KMTA will be providing a series of programs throughout the Heritage Area. We will do a variety of weather-dependent indoor and outdoor activities which could include:

  • Snow bowling
  • Snölykta building
  • Scavenger hunts, outdoor explorations
  • Marshmallow races
  • Birch bark crafts and a maybe even a few surprises!
  • All programs will end with cookie decorating and lighting the snölykta once the sun goes down.

Who: Winter Break Programs are open to all K-12 students who live in KMTA communities. Community members younger than 6 are welcome to participate with a parent chaperone!

Cost: Winter Break programs are free. If you’re able, please consider making a donation to KMTA’s Education Programs to help us expand these opportunities for more kids throughout the Heritage Area.

About KMTA Education Staff: Sarah Schuh, aka Snowshoe, is our Education Program Manager and has 10 years of experience working with students of all ages in variety of education settings- experiential outdoor education and science programs, school classrooms, and on the slopes as a ski instructor! She has extensive year-round experience traveling in the backcountry and is a Wilderness First Responder.

Things to bring:

  • All snow gear:
    • boots
    • snowpants
    • layers
    • jackets
    • hat, gloves, buff/balaclava
  • Lunch
  • Water bottle
  • An appetite for adventure!

When:

  • 12/22/2022: Girdwood, 11AM – 3PM
    • Pick Up/Drop Off: Community Room
  • 12/23/2022: Hope, 10AM – 4PM
    • Pick Up/Drop Off: Hope School
  • 12/27/2022: Moose Pass, 10AM – 4PM
    • Pick Up/Drop Off: Community Hall
  • 12/29/2022: Seward, 10AM – 4PM
    • Pick Up/Drop Off: Library Community Room

Next Fresh Air Friday on November 25th!

Opt Outside with KMTA this year! Fresh Air Fridays are in-service day youth programs from the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area.

Who: Kids ages 8-12.

What: Join us on a winter expedition to Vagt Lake! Snowshoe with friends and explore this winter wonderland while learning valuable winter recreation & survival skills. No experience in snowshoeing is required, and snowshoes will be provided for any participants who do not have their own.

Where: Pick up & Drop Off @ Vagt Lake Trailhead

When: Friday, November 11th 10am – 3:30pm

Cost: $30 per participant Program fees for Opt Outside Day have been waived. If you’re able, please consider making a donation to the FAF program to help us provide these opportunities for more kids throughout the Heritage Area.

Max Participants: 15

About KMTA Education Staff: Sarah Schuh, aka Snowshoe, is our Education Program Manager and has 10 years of experience working with students of all ages in variety of education settings- experiential outdoor education and science programs, school classrooms, and on the slopes as a ski instructor!

Things to bring:

  • All snow gear- boots, snowpants, layers, jackets, hat, gloves, buff/balaclava
  • Small backpack
  • Lunch + snacks if needed
  • Camping mug for cocoa
  • Snowshoes
  • Water bottle
  • As always, an appetite for adventure

We will provide:

  • Afternoon snack + hot cocoa
  • Snowshoes (if needed)
  • Activities to keep kids warm, moving, and learning skills!
Aerial View of the Resort Town of Girdwood, Alaska at Sunset
Aerial View of the Resort Town of Girdwood, Alaska at Sunset

Fresh Air Friday in Girdwood! *POSTPONED*

The Girdwood Fresh Air Friday is postponed – stay tuned for details!

Fresh Air Fridays are in-service day youth programs from the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area.

Who: Kids 8-12  
 
What: Fresh Air and Fun- weather dependent we will doing a variety of outdoor activities including geocaching in the greater Girdwood area, playing frisbee golf, and exploring along the Iditarod National Historic Trail. We will warm up, eat lunch, and store gear in the Community Room. Alternative/additional indoor activities will be deployed as needed!
 
Where: Pick up & Drop Off @ Girdwood Community Center. We will homebase out of the Community Room but be exploring areas within walking distance.  
 
When: This Friday, November 11th, 9:30am – 3:30pm  
 
Cost: $30
 
Max Participants: 15  
 
About KMTA Education Staff: Sarah Schuh (aka Snowshoe) is our Education Program Manager and has 10 years of experience working with students of all ages in variety of education settings- experiential outdoor education and science programs, school classrooms, and on the slopes as a ski instructor!  
 
Things to bring: Warm clothes & shoes – we will be outside most of the day! Lunch (& snack if needed) – an afternoon snack will be provided, frisbee golf discs (if you have them!) and an appetite for adventure!

Introducing Fresh Air Fridays!

Fresh Air Fridays are in-service day youth programs from the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. Come explore with Snowshoe for the first Fresh Air Friday of the year!  
 
Who: Kids 8-12  
 
What: Fresh Air and Fun- weather dependent we will be geocaching within walking distance of the Seward Library, creating spooky stories from the Iditarod Trail, and playing games down at the Waterfront Playground area. We will warm up, eat lunch, and store gear in the community room. Option to do a museum scavenger hunt and read spooky stories in the library if the weather doesn’t cooperate. 
 
Where: Pick up & Drop Off @ Seward Library Community Room. We will homebase out of the Community Room but be exploring areas within walking distance.  
 
When: This Friday, October 28th 9:30am – 3:30pm  
 
Cost: Free!  
 
Max Participants: 15  
 
About KMTA Education Staff: Sarah Schuh (aka Snowshoe) is our Education Program Manager and has 10 years of experience working with students of all ages in variety of education settings- experiential outdoor education and science programs, school classrooms, and on the slopes as a ski instructor!  
 
Things to bring:  
Warm clothes & shoes – we will be outside most of the day!  
Lunch (& snacks if needed)- an afternoon snack will be provided  
An appetite for adventure!

KMTA Photo Contest Winner Showcase!

 

Come Celebrate the Winners of the 4th Annual KMTA Photo Contest!

Come celebrate the photo contest winners with us at Resurrect Art, November 18th, 6-8 PM!

This will be the first of two photo contest showcase events. The second will be at Turnagain Brewing in January. Vote for and maybe purchase your favorite photo, snack on some yummy food and enjoy some great company.

All 2022 contest winners can be found here!

 

The Mary Lowell Homestead. Photo courtesy Resurrection Bay Historical Society, 21.1.4.
The Mary Lowell Homestead. Photo courtesy Resurrection Bay Historical Society, 21.1.4.

Iditarod Trail Pioneer Alfred Lowell

A sketch of Alfred Lowell

Alfred Lowell was born in 1876, the son of Frank and Mary Lowell, who settled on Resurrection Bay in 1884, some 19 years before the founding of Seward in 1903. 

Mary Lowell's family on the beach at Resurrection Bay. From left to right: Son William Lowell, his wife and two children, Mary, and two of her daughters, Eva and most likely, Alice. Photo courtesy Resurrection Bay Historical Society, 20.1.1.

Mary Lowell’s family on the beach at Resurrection Bay. From left to right: Son William Lowell, his wife and two children, Mary, and two of her daughters, Eva and most likely, Alice. Photo courtesy Resurrection Bay Historical Society, 20.1.1.

He was an active and enterprising man. In 1901 he and his brother William established a fox farm on what is now known as Fox Island in Resurrection Bay. He located placer claims on Tonsina Creek about three miles south of Seward in 1905 and worked them over the years. He also prospected in the Susitna and Yenta River districts but never struck it rich. Starting in the winter of 1905 he ran mail by dog team from Seward to Tyonok, via Knik and Susitna Station. He became famous for the fast times of his runs.

Iditarod Trail Beginnings…

With the discovery of gold in the Iditarod country in 1908, Seward merchants saw great commercial possibilities in Seward becoming the starting point for winter traffic to the new gold fields. The Seward Commercial Club was very responsive, when on December 3, 1909, the famous Japanese musher Jujiro Wada proposed (1) that the Club pay all his expenses for a trip from Seward to Iditarod and back and (2) the purpose of the trip would be to demonstrate to an absolute certainty that the Seward route to the Iditarod was an absolutely feasible one, thereby bringing a large number of prospectors to Seward to take the trail to Iditarod. The Club voted to accept Wada’s offer. It was estimated that the total cost for his trip would not exceed $600. The Club also hired Alfred Lowell to accompany Wada for $5 a day. 

Jujiro Wada and Alfred Lowell Start Their Trek

Jujiro Wada on 4th Avenue in Seward

Wada and Lowell left Seward for Iditarod on December 17, 1909. They followed the existing trail but did blaze some new sections to improve the trail. They checked out the mining activity on all the creeks in the area. On the way back to Seward they flagged the trail so others could use it. Wada and Lowell returned to Seward on February 26, 1910. They reported mining prospects in the Iditarod district were good and the trail was in general a good trail but said the Indian River Pass between Girdwood and Eagle River was dangerous because of frequent snow slides.

The Mary Lowell Homestead. Photo courtesy Resurrection Bay Historical Society, 21.1.4.

The Mary Lowell Homestead. Photo courtesy Resurrection Bay Historical Society, 21.1.4.

Wada and Lowell should be remembered for the significant contribution they made to the development of the Iditarod Trail. The best way to sum up their accomplishment is to say they pioneered the route of the trail from Seward to the Iditarod district. A trail used by hundreds of people and over which tons of mail, supplies and gold were carried. 

An Untimely End

In October 1910 Alfred was hired as a packer and William Weaver as a hunting guide by H. B. Smith, a wealthy pharmacist from Norwich, Connecticut. On October 11 on the return from the hunt, their boat capsized on Kenai Lake and Mr. Smith and Alfred Lowell drowned. 

At this time, he and his wife, Alafor were separated. She was living in St. Joe, Idaho. When notified of his death, she came north to settle his estate. She offered a $500 reward for the recovery of Alfred’s body. His brother William and John Rock found his body about 150 yards from the shore on November 10. Mrs. Lowell gave each man $250. Additionally, The Commercial Club still owed Alfred $250 for his trip to Iditarod. His wife settled for S130.

The Seward Gateway reported that Alafor took Alfred’s body back to St. Joe, Idaho for burial. For more information on where he was buried the Seward Trail Blazers contacted the Idaho Historical Society. It reported the following: although St. Joe, Idaho still exists as an unincorporated city, it does not have a cemetery. The Society checked multiple sources for any information on Alfred or Mrs. Lowell but found no record of his burial in any cemetery in Kootenai county, in which St. Joe is located. So, Alfred’s final resting place is a mystery.