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Congratulations to the 2023 KMTA Grantees!

Congratulation to this year’s KMTA Sub-Grant Award recipients! We committed $110,000 of our federal funding to community projects that will be completed over the course of the next year.  With an estimated $200,000 in matched non-federal in-kind support, these projects are set to make a significant impact on heritage stewardship and preservation in the KMTA. We are proud to feature these dedicated organizations and individuals below, and their efforts to support the places and people of Alaska’s only National Heritage Area: 

  • The Girdwood Trails Committee (GTC) is a standing committee that advocates for, protects, and maintains trails in Girdwood, Alaska. Due to challenges in finding qualified personnel and adverse weather conditions, Girdwood’s trails need concentrated attention. A KMTA sub-grant will allow GTC to hire a five-person trail crew for three weeks this summer. Matching funds from the GTC, and the Girdwood Valley Service Area will help support this project, which aims to restore and maintain Girdwood’s trails to ensure safety, accessibility, and an enjoyable experience for all users. 

  • Four Valleys Community School (FVCS) is an independent non-profit organization in Girdwood, Alaska that offers educational, cultural, and recreational programs to residents of all ages. They were awarded a sub-grant for their summer Adventure Camps. The camps, now in their 8th year, focus on outdoor exploration and learning about the environment. This year, they plan to expand their programs by incorporating activities such as hiking, biking, visits to natural landmarks, and educational field trips. FVCS emphasizes hands-on experiences, artistic development, environmental awareness, and compassion for all living beings. 
  • Alaska Trails, established in 2003, is dedicated to enhancing the trail experience in Alaska by advocating for trail projects, securing funding, and providing technical assistance. They have expertise in trail development, design, maintenance, safety, and more. Their Alaska Trail Stewards (ATS) volunteer program tackles trail maintenance on public lands, reducing the backlog of work. With the help of a KMTA sub-grant, Alaska Trails will continue to build on its successful partnership with the USFS to coordinate two Alaska Trail Stewards (ATS) volunteer events in the KMTA National Heritage Area. The first event will be on the Iditarod National Historic Trail at Ptarmigan Creek, focusing on reestablishing turnpike sections. At this event, they will also partner with an Alaska Geographic youth crew. The second event will involve brushing and drainage work on the Hope Point trail over the course of two days. The grant will also help fund their Trails Initiative, which involves work on the Alaska Trails’ Statewide Trails Investment Strategy. This strategy document focuses on ways to build on and expand trail infrastructure to help Alaska make the most of our outdoor recreation potential.

  • The Kenaitze Indian Tribe operates tribal facilities in Kenai and have a special partnership with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR) for the K’Beq’ Interpretive Site in Cooper Landing. The site, which has been closed since 2019 due to the Swan Lake Fire and the COVID-19 pandemic, is undergoing repairs, tree removal, and site enhancements in preparation for reopening in 2024. The tribe’s mission is to ensure the well-being of the Kahtnuht’ana Dena’ina people, and the K’Beq’ site represents their concept of “living in the outdoors.” KMTA sub-grant funding will be used to support improvements, including cabin refurbishment, signage, museum displays, and general grounds maintenance. 


  • The Chugach Regional Resources Commission (CRRC), in collaboration with their subsidiary, the Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute (APMI), will create an educational infographic about the Kenai Peninsula’s intertidal zone through the support of a KMTA sub-grant. This visually captivating piece, featuring artwork by Marissa Amor, will showcase scientific and cultural information, including indigenous names and traditional practices. The infographic will be shared as a pamphlet, displayed as a mural on the APMI building in Seward, and available as a digital resource on

  • Pickle Hill Public Broadcasting, overseen by public radio station KDLL, provides the central Kenai Peninsula with a variety of local news, entertainment, and music programming. Their mission is to provide enriching and trustworthy programming, with a vision of fostering a community of informed critical thinkers. They aim to inform, engage, connect, and entertain their listeners. KMTA’s sub-grant will go towards supporting KDLL in their second year of the Report for America program, which focuses on providing quality community journalism in underserved areas, covering the rural communities of the central Kenai Peninsula, including Cooper Landing, Moose Pass, Crown Point, and Hope, and shedding light on the changes and challenges these areas face. Their reporter helps residents stay informed about projects and decisions that could affect them and assists decision-makers in understanding the concerns of local residents.
  • The Moose Pass Public Library (MPPL), established in 1938, serves the community by providing access to information, promoting literacy, and facilitating lifelong learning. As one of the oldest public libraries in Alaska, it has evolved into a cherished community hub. Through their KMTA sub-grant, they will continue their efforts to collect and preserve historical documents and artifacts related to the early history of Moose Pass. Secondly, MPPL plans to develop a free, interactive, and searchable map displayed on a touch screen kiosk. The map will feature major historical locations and resources in the Moose Pass area, utilizing existing photos and text from KMTA-sponsored projects. The kiosk will be located in the common entryway shared by MPPL and the Moose Pass Sportsmen’s Club community hall, which was rebuilt in 2022 after collapsing in 2020. This space presents an opportunity to enhance the experiences of residents and visitors to the facility, particularly during times when the library is closed.
  • The Cooper Landing Community Club (CLCC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1949 with the goal of serving, promoting, and supporting the residents of Cooper Landing. They act as an umbrella organization for various groups dedicated to enhancing the community. One of these groups is Cooper Landing Trails, which is responsible for grooming ski trails in the winter. With their KMTA sub-grant they will be able to purchase new grooming equipment for their primary ski locations: Russian River Campground, the Quartz Creek area, and near the Devil’s Creek Trailhead.

  • Max Romey, an artist who focuses on creatively capturing the essence of south-central Alaska and inspiring others to connect with its incredible landscapes, history, and community, was awarded a 2023 Publication & Arts sub-grant to help with the production of Trailbound Postcards.  Romey believes that the KMTA corridor holds a wealth of beauty and stories, but many people may struggle to know where to begin or how to share their experiences. These postcards will provide an accessible and engaging way to entice a diverse audience to explore the iconic spaces within the KMTA corridor. They will serve as an introduction, inviting individuals to connect with the area’s natural wonders and providing links to websites, videos, and photos that highlight the community and history that define the corridor. Through this art, Romey will facilitate a deeper appreciation for the hidden gems of south-central Alaska.
  • The Rez Mountain Bike Club has been awarded a Publications & Arts sub-grant to facilitate the creation of “Empowerment in Motion: Backcountry Biking for Girls”, an inspiring documentary film that will showcase the impact of a free 8-week biking program designed for middle school girls in the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. The film explores themes of mentorship, the strength of an all-girls club, resilience, confidence-building, and environmental stewardship. It highlights the transformative experiences of the girls as they overcome challenges, develop grit, and discover their own potential. By sharing their stories, the film aims to inspire viewers to embrace the program’s values and recognize the power of personal growth and positive change through challenging experiences. It emphasizes the importance of determination, camaraderie, and respect for nature! 

KMTA GeoTrail Kickoff on June 3rd!


Join us and GeocacheAlaska! as we kick off our KMTA Geotrail on June 3rd from 10 AM to 1 PM! The KMTA GeoTrail will go live at noon on that day, and you’ll have the opportunity to take off on an exciting adventure of finding all the caches from the KMTA Field Trip Guide! Make sure to save the date and come prepared for a day filled with geocaching fun! Learn more about the KMTA GeoTrail here.

Cecil Rhode with his filming equipment.
Cecil Rhode with his filming equipment.

Cecil and Helen Rhode

By Clark Fair

It is nearly impossible to pass through Cooper Landing and fail to notice craggy Cecil Rhode Mountain standing sentinel over the community near the nexus formed by the Sterling Highway, Snug Harbor Road, Bean Creek Road, and the bridge spanning the headwaters of the Kenai River. Rising to 4,405 feet just above the highway—and to nearly 4,600 feet on one of its back ridges—Cecil Rhode Mountain dominates the scenery in an area dominated by mountains and the turquoise sweep of Kenai Lake.  

View from atop Cecil Rhode Mountain

The mountain is named for Cecil Rhode, a renowned former resident of Cooper Landing, a man whose wife, Helen, was renowned as a photographer; whose younger brother, Leo Rhode, was renowned as 15-year member of the Alaska State Legislature, a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents, and a two-time mayor of Homer; and whose cousin, Clarence Rhode, was renowned for his speedy climb to the top of the territorial Game Commission and for the long mystery surrounding his death in a 1958 plane crash. (The remote crash site went undiscovered for 21 years, despite an extensive search costing more than $1million, according to Forgotten Heroes of Alaska by William Wilbanks.) 

Cecil Rhode himself, who in 1937 built a cabin on a federal homesite parcel in Cooper Landing, was known primarily for his wildlife cinematography, which he turned into his full-time profession in 1946. For many years, he filmed wildlife in Alaska during the summers and then traveled to the Lower 48 during the winters to present and narrate his films. 

He also worked for three years as a cinematographer for Disney Studios, and he published illustrations and articles in National Geographic, Outdoor Life and a number of other periodicals. In his later years, he was also a popular still-picture photographer. 

Cecil Rhode with his filming equipment.

Rhode was born in North Dakota in 1902 and moved with his family to Oregon and then to Eureka, Kansas, where he graduated from Eureka High School. According to a 2002 article in the Eureka Herald newspaper, Rhode worked in the local Carter Jewelry store, first as a janitor and errand boy, but soon learned how to repair and build timepieces. 

While panning for gold in Colorado in the early 1930s, he became enamored of prospectors’ tales of Alaska, so in 1933 Cecil and Leo headed north, intending to float the Yukon River. They arrived by steerage on a steamship into Ketchikan, where they obtained a skiff and spent the summer sailing more than 600 miles to Haines. They enjoyed themselves so much that they convinced Clarence to join them in 1935, and all three men lived out their lives in Alaska. 

In fact, Cecil kept his same cabin and homesite on Kenai Lake, living there for all but the four years of U.S. involvement in World War II, when he closed the door of his home and traveled to Seattle to work in Boeing’s instrument division. 

Helen Rhode

Helen was also working at Boeing. They met and were married in 1946. In an early 1990s article for We Alaskans, Doug O’Harra describes the Rhodes’ move to Cecil’s Cooper Landing cabin later in the same year they were wed: “They flew to Anchorage, boarded a train for Seward, got off at Moose Pass, and found a ride to the cabin. Helen says she remembers that Cecil walked straight into the kitchen and unrolled the dried remains of his sourdough starter, wrapped in wax paper. It was still potent after four years. A few days later, they ate sourdough pancakes for breakfast.” 

Many years before, Cecil had studied film at the University of Michigan, and upon his return to Alaska he set about producing a wildlife film. He and Helen invested in film-making equipment, and he backpacked right out of their lakeside home and into the Kenai Mountains for days seeking just the right images. Three years later, his first film was complete, and the Rhodes traveled out-of-state to promote it. 

Over the next 30 years, he produced a half-dozen independent films as well as footage for Disney and National Geographic studios. Also during this time, according to O’Harra’s article, Helen began accompanying Cecil on his wilderness excursions. Cecil gave her a German-made Exakta camera, and she began making still images of the same subjects he was filming. 

In the 1960s, Helen bought a Leica that she used for the rest of her life. With her camera, she produced photographs that appeared in newspapers, books and magazines, and on postcards and placemats. 

Besides the wildlife imagery that the Rhodes brought to the world, they were heavily invested in their community. Cecil helped with local elections and conservation issues, while Helen was involved with the Cooper Landing Community Club, the local school and planning commission, the Dall Homemakers, and the local gun club. She also helped with trash clean-ups, and was known as Cooper Landing’s leading booster. 

We Alaskans article

In the Aug. 10, 1967, edition of the Seward Phoenix-Log, Margaret Branson wrote about a film presentation Cecil put on in Cooper Landing, projecting his movie on a sheet hung on the wall at the home of Jack Randall. She called Cecil “modest and self-effacing” but claimed that these qualities “must be part of his charm and his success with his audiences.” 

After Cecil died in December 1979, an effort was launched to change the name of what was then known as Cooper Mountain to Cecil Rhode Mountain, and (although few maps show this yet) six years after Helen’s death in September 1992, a similar effort in her honor produced similar results. 

Now, if hikers pause atop Cecil Rhode Mountain and look just south of due west across the narrow Cooper Creek drainage, they can eyeball a 3,947-foot peak called Helen Rhode Mountain in the Cooper Mountain massif. 

Still side by side, after all these years. 

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Clark FairClark Fair, a lifetime Alaskan now living in Homer, grew up on a homestead in the Soldotna area. He is a former high school English teacher and journalist who now does freelance writing and photography and works part time for Kenai Peninsula College.


Help Support KMTA’s Van Fundraiser!

Help Make Transportation Possible for Our Education Programs!

It’s official! KMTA is fundraising to purchase a passenger van to help expand our direct education programming for local KMTA residents.

The Heritage Area is vast, and we believe those who live and recreate within its boundaries deserve to enjoy the full benefits of all it has to offer. However, without an ability to transport our program participants, we cannot make those experiences fully accessible.

Transportation is in crisis across Alaska, and we have a unique opportunity to solve a critical barrier that many face to participation in Heritage Area opportunities. KMTA is committed to making our programs equitable and accessible, meaning we work hard to keep program fees low or entirely free. We are equipped to provide unique experiences to KMTA locals. We just need help getting them there.

Help Make Our Kid’s Learning Experiences Transformative!

A passenger van will help us ensure more KMTA kids, families, and adults receive transformative learning experiences in the Heritage Area they live in. We are thrilled to announce that this project is being made possible in part by a grant from the Seward Community Foundation, an Affiliate of the Alaska Community Foundation. We are deeply grateful for their support.

Please consider expanding the impact of their gift by making a contribution. Your support is instrumental in expanding the diversity and accessibility of Heritage Area experiences.


Competitors Crushed Their Races at the Corduroy Crush!


Ski Races a Success in Girdwood!

Over the past weekend, KMTA hosted ski races in Girdwood for the second time. Formerly known as the KMTA Classic, the races have transformed into the Corduroy Crush. Over 85 participants ranging in age from 3 to 63 years old came out to enjoy the beautiful weather! These events included a 2K Fun Race, a 2K Snowball Biathlon, a timed 5K Race, and a 2x2x2 Relay Race.
The gorgeous weather made for a delightful and exciting race day. Racers cruised along the groomed course, and the pre-made snowballs made for a fun 2K Biathlon for all participants. The 2x2x2 Relay also provided an opportunity for different age duos to race around the course multiple times.

A Big Round of Applause for All Who Make This Race Possible!

We would like to express our gratitude to our incredible sponsors who made this event possible:
  • Alpenglow Coffee House
  • Alyeska Resort
  • The Bake Shop
  • Birch & Alder
  • Bliz
  • Girdwood Brewing Company
  • The Ice Cream Shop
  • Moose’s Tooth Pizza
  • Powder Hound Ski Shop
  • Salomon.
We must also acknowledge our co-event host, the Girdwood Nordic Ski Club, who played a critical role in making this event a success. And a huge thank you to all our volunteers, who helped put on this event.
We are honored to be a part of a strong community that stands together in support of each other. We are grateful to be part of something so meaningful and significant. Thank you to all who took part and supported the Corduroy Crush. We look forward to seeing you at the next event.

Race Results and Photos

  • Race Photos- Check out the photos from the race on the RunSignUp website! Special thanks to the volunteers, staff, and photographer Alex Shalukho (@a.shalukho) for capturing the race day fun. We’ve also opened up permissions in RunSignUp for you to tag any untagged photos you find.
  • Race Results- You may view the race results here. Please let Karen Lewis at if there are any corrections needed.

Need Swag?


Help Support the Communities of our Fellow NHA

On March 24, 2023, deadly tornadoes ripped through Mississippi, destroying businesses, homes, and neighborhoods, including several within one of our fellow NHAs – Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Rolling Fork, in particular, was almost completely destroyed. Alaskan’s are all too familiar in dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, as we are in supporting each other in hard times. To support the affected residents and help them rebuild, please consider donating to the established Go Fund Me account if you are able.

Fundraiser by Sarah Windham : Rolling Fork Tornado Relief Fund (

KMTA Corduroy Crush Coming March 26th!

Join us March 26th for the KMTA Corduroy Crusher!

Hey Nordic skiers! The KMTA Classic has undergone a transformation and is now the KMTA Corduroy Crush! The name change reflects the evolution of this family-friendly ski race, which has expanded beyond just a classic-only skiing event to include a range of new and exciting activities.

Mark your calendars for March 26th, when the event will take place at the 5K Nordic Loop in Girdwood, AK. The KMTA Corduroy Crush is co-hosted by KMTA and the Girdwood Nordic Ski Club and is a wonderful celebration of the joy of Nordic skiing and the region’s rich history. Come join us for a day of snow-filled fun and corduroy crushing!

To register and learn more click here!

KMTA SnowSchool’s Mid-Winter Update

Mid-Winter Update From KMTA’s SnowSchool…

Hello, and happy winter! KMTA Education Programs Manager Sarah Schuh here with a mid-winter update on our education programming in the Heritage Area. This year we have been piloting a series of new programs from Fresh Air Fridays to SnowSchool, and are currently gearing up for our spring session of Alaska Outdoor School in Portage Valley. 

In 2022 the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area became a SnowSchool provider site, and we have been piloting our program this school year with weekly sessions in the Hope, Cooper Landing, and Moose Pass schools. SnowSchool is a national network of providers supported by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and local land managers like the US Forest Service. The overall goal of the program is to provide opportunities for local kids to investigate the many facets of their winter environment from snow science to watersheds to winter recreation. 

We kicked off KMTA SnowSchool with the simple question of “how much water is in our snow?”. This experiment requiring only some snow, a jar, and a microwave, led to some surprising results and kicked off an avalanche of questions and guesses that has only continued to gain momentum with each new topic. Having set the gears of inquiry and observation in motion, the next week we then looked at snow crystals using hand lenses and dark paper. Students were able to use the crystal size and shape to make hypotheses about the outdoor temperature and humidity- no thermometer necessary! 

For our watersheds week, Forest Service Hydrologist Angela Coleman visited the students in Hope and Cooper Landing. The middle and high school students in Hope worked with Angela to do a complete snow survey and she created watershed maps in the snow with the younger students to illustrate how water collects and moves around in their communities. She also answered questions about her work with the Forest Service and shared with them some of her favorite winter activities.  

The last several weeks, students have turned a keen eye to the snow in search of animal tracks and discussed how animals and people have adapted for winter environments- from the snowshoe hare tracks that are a common sight throughout the Heritage in winter to how snowshoes have helped people navigate snowy landscapes for thousands of years.  Students are currently working on making their very own snowshoes out of natural materials easily found around their homes and schools.  

With a little less than half of this pilot SnowSchool program left to go, we are encouraged by its success so far and look forward to expanding the program to include more Heritage Area students next school year. For many, the snow-covered KMTA provides as much (if not more!) joy, sustenance, and community as any other time of the year and we hope SnowSchool can continue to connect our local students to these special places. 

For more information about SnowSchool or ways to support the program, visit or email me, Sarah, at