When Jim and Nedra Evenson set off on foot with just a hand compass to map out their 158-acre homestead near Nikiski, the two never imagined they'd be donating a portion of it more than a half-a-century later to the Nikiski Senior Center for a new facility on the banks of Marie Lake.
But, after nearly a decade of planning the more than 250 members of the senior center will soon have a new 12-acre, lake-front facility to call their own.
More than 40 people turned out for the ground-breaking of the new center which is scheduled for completion in January 2013.
The project got a boost from a $5 million state appropriation, according to the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development's capital projects summary.
State Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, was on hand to wield one of the golden shovels used to commemorate the occasion. He said he helped push the project through the senate because communities like Nikiski are often overlooked.
"They get very little exposure for capital things," he said. "So when we have a chance to do a capital project like this, it gives those people the ability to share in the wealth of the State of Alaska."
Rick Roeske, executive director of Nikiski Senior Citizens, Inc., said the new center would have office space in the basement, a larger kitchen and several common areas as well as an exercise room.
He said the new facility was projected to cost the senior center less than $100,000 per year to operate, which is comparable to the cost the group pays for the old facility. Several features built into the design will reduce operating costs such as structural insulated panels which make the walls up to 14 inches thick in some places, according to project plans.
The building also has a bent rebar construction which will allow it to move with the ground in case of an earthquake.
"It's not earthquake proof because nothing is, but it is definitely earthquake resistant," Roeske said.
"It's really nice and quiet," Roeske said. "The only drawback is there's no medical out here. You have to drive to Soldotna to get to the hospital. But other than that, there's no crime out here, it's just real low-key."
As the Evensons stood talking with several people after the dedication ceremony, Jim laughed when he spoke about thinking of donating any of the couple's land when the two homesteaded in the 1950s.
He said they homesteaded because they wanted to be away from people.
"We relished the idea of being off by ourselves in the woods and all the privacy," he said. "But then, after a while, you see that everyone needs some social interaction with other people. So we started going to the senior center and eating lunch there and that led to this."
Editors Note: Paragraph two was edited to reflect the correct acreage of the facility.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org